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Dog gong reaches parts other awards cannot reach

When the balloon went up at Cannes we knew it was going to be a dog domination of the world's glitziest and biggest film festival. At least the mooring of a giant inflatable Gromitt let festival goers know that hounds were going to be big on the Croisette.

Before you could say "Fetch!", the announcement came through that a remake of Lassie was on the way. And no ordinary kiddie fare. The producers have cast Oscar winner Samantha Morton and Laurence of Arabia himself, Peter O'Toole.

Shooting gets underway this month and promises to kickstart one of the biggest ever fourlegged franchises.

All this high profile canine news on the Croisette weighed heavily on the shoulders of the Palm Dog Jury for Cannes 2005.

This is an annual award for the acting talents of a canine in a feature film. "All the power and glamour of Cannes rolled into one fabulous sausage roll" said The Times. Kudos or what! It is the longest running, the most glamourous canine media award and aims to right a gong wrong. Now all cast members get to go for gold.

In its fifth ritzy year, the decision makers realised more than ever that observers were hanging on the decision of an award which had kicked off with oscar-nominated Jennifer Jason Leigh accepting the world's leading canine acting award on behalf of her co-star, Otis. It's an award that goes symbolically way beyond its leather gold lettered collar physical quality (and some quality, who has ever heard of an award you can wear everyday?).

No, Palm Dog 5 marked a coming of age for the award as a perceptible buzz started at festival from Day 1.

Judges James Christopher from The Times, Peter Bradshaw from The Guardian, Charles Gant from Heat Magazine, joined founder jury member, the Evening Standard's Derek Malcolm, under the presidency of Mutley to sift a vintage year of performances.

An early buzz surrounded a four legged performance in the opening film, which turned out to be rodent. Sorry guys, there is no palm lemming. Then there was talk of a blockbuster turn by a hound which retrieved a severed finger on the mean streets of LA in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. Then there was a dog called Winston which played a key scene in Broken Flowers opposite Sharon Stone. On a more surreal level there was the dog which joined Sam Shepard on a sofa in the street in Wim Wenders' flick, Don't Come Knocking.

In the market there was a wealth of canine talent. A low budget Brit Pic, The Mighty Celt told the story of a Belfast greyhound which was befriended by a boy who then got caught up on the fringes of The Troubles. Another low budget UK offering was Lost Dogs which featured two bulldogs in shades on the poster. Another great film was also getting its world premiere in the market and was in some ways destined for honours. It was the great tale Greyfriars Bobby. The true story of a Skye terrier which stayed loyally on the grave of his master for his entire life.

Devotion which earned the plucky little terrier the freedom of Edinburgh. Re written in, at times, panto style, this heartwarming tale melted the hearts of the jury which awarded it Highly Commended.

The market was eventually the place where Palm Dog 5 was found. The sweet story of a shepherd dog in Mongolia it won over the jury in an animated debate on the Hotel du Cap terrace. German sales executive came to accept the award on behalf of the star and filmmaker Byambasuren Davaa.

The world's cameras recorded the moment when London based producer and film distributor Hamish McAlpine handed over the coveted trophy. The whooping and hollering of the normally staid crowd was beamed round the world thanks to coverage on Sky, ITV, Canadian TV and BBC 1 and World. This is an award with legs, four legs! The raptured response as the prize headed for Mongolia just goes to show the Palm Dog is an award which refreshes the parts other awards cannot reach!