Spike Lee backs online film fest

Babelgum launches in Venice

VENICE — Babelgum, the global Internet TV network owned by Italo media magnate Silvio Scaglia, launched a high profile online film fest at the Venice Film Festival Saturday, with Spike Lee on hand as its chief juror and promoter.

Babelgum, a startup similar in concept to Joost — the Netco that pacted with Viacom — laid out plans for its Babelgum Online Film Festival, clearly targeting global niche auds and trying to connect with the indie film industry worldwide.

The Babelgum fest will showcase shorts under 45 minutes long, either shot in English or with English-language subtitles.

There is still some confusion however about requisites for submission to the Babelgum web fest, which will dole out six prizes, each worth Euros 20,000 ($27,000) in categories including documentaries, animation and social/environment-themed shorts.

At first organizers said entries must previously have unspooled at an international film fest. But Spike Lee subsequently told Daily Variety that he disagrees with that rule and will have it removed.

“The main thing is we want quality films from bona fide film directors and real production companies,” said Babelgum CEO Valerio Zingarelli.

“We are not a user-generated-content company. We don’t want to duplicate YouTube,” Zingarelli added.

Submissions to the online fest will be open between Sept. 15, 2007 and Feb. 15, 2008, with winners to be announced in April 2008. Voting from online viewers will determine the first selection of entries to be judged by Spike Lee and other jurors.

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