The Adelaide Film Festival may only be in its fourth year but the event has developed a reputation far beyond its age by being the first Australian film festival to seriously launch an international feature film competition and the first to invest in films.

Following its lead, Sydney now also has a competition while Melbourne now invests in films.

The biggest buzz this year has been around the world premieres of eight Australian features, many of which owe their existence in some measure to the festival.

The filmmakers were aided in their search for finance having already secured a modest financial commitment from the festival's Investment Fund.

The Australian film that has had the biggest impacton the 2010 edition of thefestival is Warwick Thornton's Samson and Delilah, a story of young love and survival set in an indigenous community in the desert.

Director and writer Thornton's feature film debut was voted best film by the festival's audiencesthis year.

'It is the strongest film in the whole programme,' Festival director Katrina Sedgwick told this week.

Sedgwick can take credit in the case of another Australian film screening at the festival, My Tehran For Sale. The film, a bold examination of the life of young adults living in Tehran,is Australia's first co-production with Iran. Sedgwickwas the matchmaker behind Iranian Australian writer/director Granaz Moussavi teaming up with Adelaide producers Kate Croser and Julie Ryan.

Two years after making the introduction, Sedgwick and her colleagues chose it for the competition. The other Australian film chosen was the opening night film, Sarah Watt's My Year Without Sex.

The South Australian Film Corporation and Screen Australia are also investors in many of these new Australian films although one drama that made a big impact, Van Diemen's Land, was principally privately financed without government or festival support.

Set in Australia in the 1840s, it is the true story of what a group of escaped Irish convicts did to each other in order to survive.

'I would not have missed this opportunity to come to Adelaide for the world,' said Toronto International Film Festival programmer Jane Schoettle, one of a number of selectors from key festivals at the biennial event. 'The festival takes a lot of risks and a lot of the leading edge (Australian) work premieres here.'

Of the films winning critical acclaim, Treeless Mountain, from Korean-American director So-yong Kim, also won the $16,000 Natuzzi International Award for best feature film at the festival.

The film, a drama about two little girls coping without their mother, was judged the best of the 13 very diverse films in competition.

Organisers have reported that attendances across the festival's main screening program have grown by 30% since the last festival, held in 2007, and 18% of the sessions in the 11-day event were sold out.