TORONTO — Spike Lee arrived in Toronto Friday, two days before the Sunday world preem of his “Miracle at St. Anna,” to launch the 2nd annual edition of the Babelgum online film festival. Lee, who will reprise his role as jury chairman, and the international internet TV company’s U.S. division president Ethan Podell made the announcement today, September 5, at a press conference at the Sutton Place (home of TIFF’s sales, industry and press offices).

Short doc Oscar nominee Leslie Iwerks (“Recycled Life”) was also onstage to preem the trailer for “Downstream,” a environmental doc about the Alberta Oil Sands project and its effect on a small native community, Babelgum’s first feature production.

Richard Recco, winner of the first fest’s short film category for “Officer Down,” appeared via taped statement to announce that Babelgum success lead to him signing with Hughes Capital Entertainment, to develop “Officer” into a full-length feature.

The fest accepts entries worldwide (more than 1,000 from 86 countries last year) then viewers (1.5 million last year) narrow the field by voting for their faves until a short list is presented to the jury. The categories include short film (any genre, 20 min. max), animation (5 min. max), mini masterpiece (edgy content 5 min. max) and documentary (30 min. max)

Cash prizes include the Spike Lee Award (20,000 euro) given to the top films in each category; Looking For Genius Award to one outstanding helmer in any genre (20,000 euro) and Professional Jury Award to the films chosen by an industry jury and the Babelgum audience (prize TBD).

In an interview after the presser, Lee, a professor at NYU Film School the last 11 years, said Babelgum is exactly the kind of stepping stone his third-year students need. “My student film Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop (1983) won a Student Academy Award,” he recalled. “That got me an agent and nothing happened until four years later.

“The dilemma when you get out of film school or for anyone wanting to become a filmmaker is how am I going to get my work seen? Babelgum is just a great vehicle for young people all over the world.

Babelgum will accept film submissions until Dec. 31, 2008. Online voting begins January 2009. Further information on submission specifications and regulations are available on http://www.babelgum.com.

Babelgum’s programming focuses on indie film, the environment, global travel, music and adventure sports. Founded in 2005, the privately held company has offices in the U.K., Ireland, France, Italy and the U.S.