GEMMA’S BALLOON: Gemma Ward will have something other than walking the runways on her mind come February: walking the red carpet in Berlin for the world premiere of her debut feature film.

“The Black Balloon” has just been selected for the “Generation 14 Plus” youth competition of the 58th Berlin International Film Festival, which runs Feb. 7 to 17. Ward costars with an Australian cast that includes Toni Collette and two other newcomers, Rhys Wakefield and Luke Ford, in a story about autism — a subject close to director Elissa Down, who has two autistic brothers.

This story first appeared in the December 27, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Ward plays a teenager named Jackie, who, according to Down, is a “lamplighter” character who helps her boyfriend come to terms with his brother’s disability. It’s not Ward’s first film role. In 2001, then a totally unknown Perth teenager, she appeared in Down’s short “Pink Pyjamas.” Down, also originally from Perth, in fact wrote the part of Jackie with Ward in mind.

Due for a March Australian release through Icon Films, “The Black Balloon” will most likely beat “The Strangers” to the post as Ward’s first big-screen role — that’s the Bryan Bertino-directed U.S. suspense thriller in which Ward plays a masked intruder alongside Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman and Laura Margolis.

But will Ward prove to be just another so-so model-turned-actor? Not according to Australian film critic Lynden Barber, who saw a preview and described Ward’s performance as “surprisingly impressive” in “one of the strongest Australian films of the last few years.”

Noted Down of the Berlin nod, “We were absolutely wrapped by the news. It’s just fantastic to be able to launch at such a prestigious festival.”

Collette is going to be busy: She also stars in “Hey, Hey, It’s Esther Blueburger,” one of three Australian features selected for Berlin’s official program.

LAST GASP: Art Basel Miami has come and gone and now Miami Beach hotels are gearing up for New Year’s Eve. Jennifer Hudson is headlining the “Beyond Paradise” party at the Setai hotel, while Mandy Moore will be holding court at the Raleigh. Adrian Grenier’s band, The Honey Brothers, will play an oceanfront set at the Hotel Victor, and at the Sagamore, Shannon Elizabeth will lead the countdown to midnight while Kim Kardashian will be popping open the bubbly over at Mansion. More low-key revelers will head for The Biltmore, where fireworks will be the big attraction.

FERRAGAMO’S SHANGHAI FETE: Signaling the growing importance of the Chinese market, Salvatore Ferragamo is planning a celebratory event in Shanghai in the spring to mark its 80th anniversary. The Florence-based luxury goods house will hold a runway show on March 28 to present its fall collections for men and women, followed by a party for more than 1,500 guests. The festivities will continue the next day with the opening of a retrospective held at the Museum of Contemporary Art and a dinner. Wanda Ferragamo, honorary chairman and wife of the late founder of the company, together with her son Ferruccio Ferragamo, chairman, and his siblings, Giovanna, Fulvia, Leonardo and Massimo, are all expected at the celebration. The company was one of the more farsighted in the industry, entering the Mainland Chinese market in 1994, opening in Shanghai at Shanghai Maison Mode.

Fans of Japanese architect Tadao Ando will be making their way to New York’s Japan Society Feb. 5 to catch one of his rare public appearances. Known for his modern simplicity, the Pritzker Prize-winning architect is at work on a 100,000-seat waterfront stadium for next year’s Beijing Olympics and an art gallery for Bono, among other things. Architectural Record’s editor in chief, Robert Ivy, will put out the welcome mat, introducing Ando at the Gotham event.