Spike Lee to lead online film fest

September 9, 2008 7:32:21 PM PDT
Spike Lee again is on the prowl for new filmmaking talent in his second year heading the jury of the Babelgum Online Film Festival. No red carpets and no cinemas - Babelgum, an Internet company that streams videos online for free, has made the Internet its venue. Independent filmmakers upload their entries onto Babelgum's platform, and audiences vote for their favorites.

Last year's inaugural edition of the festival received 1,000 entries from 86 countries, according to Babelgum. More than 1.5 million viewers voted to select the final cut for the jury.

"The results from the first Babelgum Online Film Festival proved that audiences from all over the world are eager for new content, and that independent filmmakers are excited to have found a new place to showcase their work," Lee said Tuesday, adding that the festival "has the potential to reach more audiences than any other festival in the world because of the Internet's global reach."

Babelgum is accepting uploads of independent short- and medium-length films through the end of the year. The winners will be announced early next year at a time and place still to be determined.

This year, the festival has reduced the number of categories from seven to four, including short films up to 20 minutes, documentary and animation.

Babelgum viewers will select the top 10 films in each category.

From those, Lee will then choose a winner in each category for the Spike Lee Award, worth $28,400. A four-member jury also will choose a winner in each category, with prizes still to be determined.

Another prize of $28,400 will be given to an emerging talent from any of the four categories.

Babelgum, which was started by the founder of Italy's second-largest telecommunications company Fastweb, launched its site for the general public in 2007. Supported by advertising, Babelgum uses peer-to-peer technology and focuses on content from independent producers. Competitors include Joost and VeohTV.

Babelgum, which has been pushing to expand its North American presence, also announced a new venture with the Cinetic Media, an industry consulting company that concentrates on financing and sales, to show 12 festival-quality feature-length movies, one a month for a year.