Writer/director Pan Malin's debut feature Samsara proved the most fashionable film of the 51st Melbourne International Film Festival when it won the Stella Artois Award for most popular feature. The India/Germany/Italy/France production is about the sexual awakening of a young Buddhist monk in the Himalayas.

Another directorial debut, Paul Goldman's Australian Rules, was runner up and Alfonso Cuaron's Mexican/USA film And Your Mother Too (Y Tu Mama Tambien) was third. The next most popular were local writer/director Rolf de Heer's The Tracker and, making three of the top five films debut features, US writer/director Richard Kelly's Donnie Darko.

All the films had local distributors before being screened at the festival. The two Australian films -Globe is handling The Tracker and Palace has Australian Rules - as well as Dendy's And Your Mother Too release this month. Niche plans to release Samsara in November. Imagine Entertainment's plans for Donnie Darko are not known.

The Odyssey Channel Award for most popular documentary went to Martin Scorsese's four-hour tour of modern Italian cinema, My Voyage To Italy (Il Mio Viaggio In Italia).