Filmmaker Cuong Ngo's latest movie Ngoc Vien Dong (Pearls of the Far East) has won two awards at the 14th Annual California Independent Film Festival (CIFF).

The Vietnamese film beat two others, including British film The Stand-In and Tilt from Bulgarian, to win the award for Best Cinematography. In the Best Music category, Ngoc Vien Dong beat with Tilt and American film Applebox for the award.

French movie Monsieur Lazhar won the Best Picture at the festival this year, which ended on Fe. 16.

Since its inception in 1997, the CIFF has become one of the most successful and fastest growing film festivals in California. Thirty-nine indie-movies from all over the world attended the annual festival.

Featuring six short stories, Ngoc Vien Dong explores the inner lives and forbidden loves of several Vietnamese women in what is director Cuong's feature film debut. Born in HCM City in 1978, Cuong graduated from the HCM Cinema and Theatre

College and the Film Production Department at York University in Canada.

Cuong said he was inspired to make movies at a young age, after watching Giuseppe Tornatore's Nuovo Cinema Paradiso. Due to his background in the performing arts, Cuong has found his passion in directing. He directed two award-winning short comedies in 2003 and 2004 while at the International Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University.

His film Cay Tram Vang (The Golden Pin) won the Best Canadian Short Award at Toronto's Inside Out Festival in 2009 and took second place in the 2009 National Film Board Best Canadian Short Award.

Produced in 2010, Cuong's film features many A-list Vietnamese actresses, including veteran Nhu Quynh, along with Ngo Thanh Van and Truong Ngoc Anh, who are coupled with overseas Vietnamese actors.

The film script was adapted from the short stories of Nguyen Thi Minh Ngoc, who also acts in the film. The film captures some of the most beautiful images of Vietnam's landscapes, such as panoramas from Sa Pa, Da La, Mui Ne and Hoi An.

Ngoc Vien Dong will be released in Vietnam next month./.