Armenian documentary filmmaker Vardan Hovhannisyan was the big winner at this year's Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan, picking up four of the prizes for his film A Story Of People In War And Peace at the awards ceremony preceding the closing film The Banishment by Russia's Andrei Zviagintsev.

The film, which combined footage he had taken as a front-line journalist during the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in 1994 with interviews held ten years later with survivors in the aftermath of a devastating war, received the Golden Apricot Prize for Best Documentary, a Silver Prize from the Armenian Panorama Competition jury and awards from the FIPRESCI and Ecumenical Juries, which were in Yerevan for the first time this year.

A Story Of People In War And Peace had previously received the Best New Documentary Filmmaker Award at April's Tribeca Film Festival.

Meanwhile, the International Feature Film Competition jury presented its Golden Apricot Prize to Ulrich Seidl's Import/Export, the Silver Prize to Emanuele Crialese's Golden Door (Nuovomondo), and a Special Diploma to Bruno Dumont's Flanders.

In addition to honouring Hovhannisyan's film, the Documentary jury gave a Silver Prize to The White She-Camel by Christiaens Xavier.

UK-based Carla Garapedian's Screamers was named Best Film in the Armenian Panorama Competition - and also received an award from the Ecumenical Jury - while a Silver Prize was presented to Karen Hovhannisyan for Time Out and jury diplomas given to Seven Indian Boys by Ashot Mkrtchyan and Graffiti by Igor Apasyan.

In addition, the Parajanov Thaler Lifetime Achievement Award went this year to the veteran directing duo Paolo and Vittorio Taviani whose latest feature The Lark Farm, set during the Armenian genocide, was the festival's opening film.

Apart from staging master classes with such visiting filmmakers as Bruno Dumont, Jafir Panahi, Leos Carax, and Andrei Zviagintsev, the festival also organised its first regional co-production forum as part of the Directors Across Borders (DAB) platform.

In addition to his four prizes at the festival, Vardan Hovhannisyan was also successful at DAB when one of his planned productions - The Last Two Tightrope Walkers in Armenia by Inna Sahakyan - was awarded a development grant worth $6,886 (Euros 5,000) as one of the best pitches.

A second grant was given by Bianca Taal of the Hubert Bals Fund to the coming-of-age tale Susa by Georgian director Giorgi Chalauri which will be produced by Rusudan Pureveli and Nino Gamrekeli of Tbilisi-based Caucasian Filmodrom.

The first results became known after the day's pitching: Turkish producer Nurdan Arca expressed interest in being a production partner on Georgian director Artchil Khetagouri's documentary Black Sea, and Berlin-based producer Razmik Melkomyan of Genia Film Arts announced that he is planning to work with Armenian filmmaker Seda Muradyan who had pitched her documentary Home From Home.

Moreover, Gevorg Gevorgyan, director of the Armenian National Film Centre, indicated that his fund will support another of the pitched projects, Maria Sahakyan's I Am Going To Change My Name.

While attending DAB, Jan Vandierendonck, secretary general of Eurimages, also had an opportunity to meet with Armenia's Minister of Culture Hasmik Poghosyan to discuss the possibility of Armenia becoming a member of the Council of Europe's co-production fund in the near future.

In a panel discussion on film funds in Yerevan, he explained further that Eurimages had become an attractive proposition for Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan after the Kiev Agreement encouraged the five countries to promote closer cooperation in the cultural field.

Poghosyan also spoke with the Hubert Bals Fund's Taal and the Berlinale World Cinema Fund's Nikolai Nikitin about the strategies for developing a film policy in Armenia.

In addition, Dutch producer Els Vandervoorst of Isabella Films was in Yerevan to discuss production plans with Armenian producer Melik Karapetyan of Art Film for Aram Shahbazyan's feature Chnchik which is also being co-produced by Berlin-based Martin Hagemann's zero fiction and Switzerland's Andres Pfaeffli of Ventura Film and is set to begin shooting this year.

Following the festival, Vandervoorst was travelling this week in Georgia with director Ineke Smits to begin scouting locations and casting for her film The Aviatrix of the Kazbek which was presented at the Berlinale Co-Production Market last year and is scheduled to shoot next year.