AndreiZvyagintsev's drama The Return was named best foreign language film by the FIPRESCI panelof international critics at the closing ceremony of the record-breaking 15th Palm Springs InternationalFilm Festival on Sunday(19).

In other awards,the John Schlesinger Award for Outstanding First Feature or Documentary went to Yann Samuell'sFrench Film Gala love story, Love Me If You Dare. The film will be released in Maythrough Paramount Classics.

The AudienceChoice Award for best documentary went to Elliott Berlin and Joe Fab'saccount of an anti-racism campaign in Paper Clips, while the narrative feature counterpartwas awarded to Marco Tullio Giordana's epic family saga Best Of Youth.

PabloBerger's satirical Torremolinos 73 won the New Visions Award for newcomers.

The festivalopened on Jan 8 with Tim Burton's Big Fish and closed on Jan 18 with the USpremiere gala screening of John Irvin's feel-good comedy The Boys FromCounty Clare.

Thisyear's event broke two records for more than 86,000 attendees and morethan 100 sold-out screenings. It screened more than 200 films from 65countries, including 53 out of this year's 56 foreign language AcademyAward contenders.

'It'sbeen a remarkable year for the festival,' executive director DarrylMacdonald said in a statement.' I think the film selection was top notch,thanks to our international team of programmers under the astute leadership ofprogramming director Carl Spence.

'Attendancejumped significantly, and most important of all is the fact that Palm Springsestablished itself firmly this year as one of the major contenders and mostvital events among the scores of top US film festivals vying for the attentionof the worldwide film industry, sponsors and media in a year-round calendarthat includes over 2,000 such events annually.'

Apart from thewinners already mentioned, other acclaimed narrative features included DavidHickson's South Africa-set AIDS drama Beat The Drum, Margarethe von Trotta's wartimedrama Rosenstrasse,Yoji Yamada's nineteenth century tale The Twilight Samurai, Shemi Zarhin's Israeli drama BonjourMonsieur Shlomi, C JayCox's coming-out story Latter Days, Chito S Rono's drama Dekada, Michel Boujenah's comedy FatherAnd Sons, GastonBiraben's Argentine drama Captive and Fabrizio Aguilar's Paper Dove, a meditation on the effects of terrorismon daily life in Peru.

Among a strongroster of documentaries, some of the most popular proved to be JocelynAjami's Queen Of The Gypsies: A Portrait Of Carmen Amaya, Richard Schickel's Charlie:The Life And Art Of Charles Chaplin, Nathaniel Khan's My Architect and Byambasuren Davaa and LuigiFalorni's The Story of the Weeping Camel.

Honorees at theannual Awards Gala included Richard D Zanuck for the Lifetime Achievement inFilm Production Award, Kevin Costner for Career Achievement in the Art ofCinema, Scarlett Johansson for the Rising Star Award, and Naomi Watts for theDesert Palm Achievement Award.

Director JimSheridan received the Distinguished Achievement Award for Directing andProducing, Anthony Minghella collected the Distinguished InternationalFilm-maker Award for Writing and Directing, composer Danny Elfman received theFredrick Loewe Award for Film Composing and Sidney Sheldon won the Sonny BonoVisionary Award.