The ten-day 29th Moscow International Film Festival ended on Saturday, with Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore winning the festival's Best Director award for his film The Unknown (La Sconosciuta). The film stars Russian actress Ksenia Rappoport as a young Ukrainian woman in today's Italy working as domestic help and trying to escape her dark past as a sex slave.

Tornatore's next film will have even more of a connection to the former Soviet Union - he is planning a historical epic that depicts the siege of Leningrad by the German army in World War II, a subject that was also one Sergio Leone's pet projects before he died.

The Best Film award went to a Russian effort, Travelling with Pets (Puteshestviye s domashnimi zhyvotnymi), a rustic romance directed by Vera Storozheva. The choice gave rise to speculation in the Russian media about a trend of diplomatic western juries aiming to please their hosts by giving this award to Russian films and a possible conflict of interest with this year's choice, as jury member Renata Litvinova played the lead role in one of Storozheva's previous films, Sky. Plane. Girl. (Nebo, samolyot, devushka), as well as directing Storozheva as actress in her film The Godess (Boginya: kak ya polyubila).

Australian director Fred Schepisi, the jury president, said at the festival's closing that none of the jury's choices were unanimous and the deliberations took longer this year than at any other time in the festival's history. The other jury members include Anna Galiena, Ildiko Enyedi, Renata Litvinova, Dito Tsintsadze, Fred Roos and Othman Karim, whose film Om Sara won the Best Film Award last year.

The Special Jury Prize went to Georgian filmmaker Aleko Tsabadze's film Russian Triangle, about the Russian-Chechen conflict.

The Best Film in the Perspectives competition, which honours directors' first or second films, went to Monotony (Monotonija), the first feature from Latvian documentarian Juris Poskus.

'I have to say that the organisers had to exert tremendous effort to put together such a magnificent programme,' said festival president Nikita Mikhalkov at the closing ceremony, 'This year, the festival's attendance has tripled, and this already means a lot! This year, for the first time, we had a full-fledged competition programme that could have been presented any major international film festival.'

This year the MIFF showcased around 200 films, 19 of which were in the main competition and 10 in the Perspectives competition. The festival counted over 100,000 admissions at its main venue, the 11-screen Oktyabr Cinema.

This year's program was notable in that due to administrative difficulties, the festival programme had to be put together in two months, the shortest lead-time the festival has ever had. This year's fest was also worthy of distinction because for the first time in the festival's history, the programme director was a foreigner - Finland 's Kirsi Tykkylainen.