UK title Saving Grace, directed by Nigel Cole, snatched the High Hopes award, sponsored by the German collection society GWFF, at the Filmfest Muenchen last week (June 24-July 1).

Retaining its independent focus, the Munich event gave out 12 independently sponsored awards to up-and-coming film-makers. The Hypo Vereinsbank award, intended to further the career of German directors, went to Vanessa Jopp for Vergiss America.

The Short Tiger 2000 award, sponsored by the FFA, was given to six films: Nathalie Percillier's Hartes Brot, Sven Taddicken's El Cordobes, Andreas Linke's Heute Anders, Yasemin Samdereli's Kismet, Emre Koca's Weites Meer and Zuli Aladag's Hor Dein Leben. Hartes Brot was awarded DM50,000 and the other five titles picked up DM30,000.

Earlier in the festival, the Bavarian Documentary prizes were awarded to Solveig Klaussen's Beyond Tibet, German Kral's Buenos Aires, My Story and Uli Gaulke's Havanna Mi Amor. Roland Wagner and Gunnar Walter received Discovery Channel's young director award for Black Diamond.

Highlights of the festival included its highly-regarded American Indies series - which this year included Tony Pemberton's Beyond The Ocean and Bill Jennings' Harlem Aria - and the newly established Made in Germany series, which showcased Matthias Lehman's Doppelpack, Hansjorg Thurn's Marmor, Stein & Eisen and Roland Suso Richter's Eine Handvoll Gras. Directors Claude Chabrol, Milos Forman and Fridrik Thor Fridriksson were honoured with retrospectives.

Although US director Neil LaBute was a no-show for the screening of his Cannes competition title Nurse Betty, the festival still had a presentable guest list with directors Spike Lee, Alfonso Arau, Nick Park and Ismail Merchant and actor Rupert Everett all in attendance. Industry professionals agree that the event has created an identity of its own, as a platform for launching new German talent, and is no longer merely a post-Cannes playdate.