VENICE (AFP) - Venezuelan drama Desde Alla (From Afar), which tells a story of repressed gay love, won the Golden Lion for best film at the Venice Film Festival Saturday on a night to remember for Latin American cinema.
The debut feature by director Lorenzo Vigas was awarded the festival's top prize by a jury chaired by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron from a selection of 21 productions from around the world.
The Silver Lion for best director went to Argentina's Pablo Trapero for The Clan, a crime movie based on a real-life story of a prosperous family of kidnappers in Buenos Aires which has been a huge hit on home soil.
American duo Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson took the Grand Jury Prize for their acclaimed and highly original stop animation feature for adults Anomalisa.
From Afar centres on the life of Caracas resident Armando (Alfredo Castro), a prosperous middle-aged man who is sexually fascinated by young men but does not act on his desires beyond getting them to come to his home.
Things start to change after an encounter with Elder (Luis Silva), a teenager from a much rougher social milieu and an unexpected intimacy between the two leads to dark secrets in Armando's past coming into the open.
Italy's Valeria Golina won the best actress award for Per Amor Vostro (For Your Love), a Naples-set drama by Giuseppe Gaudino.
France's Fabrice Luchini was named best actor for his role in Christian Vincent's L'Hermine, which also won the best screenplay award in the main competition.
The Marcello Mastroianni best newcomer award went to Ghanaian Abraham Attah for his remarkable portrayal of a child soldier in True Detective director Cary Fukunaga's Netflix production Beasts Of No Nation.
But there was no recognition for The Danish Girl.
The British production had been one of the pre-festival favourites and Oscar-winning actor Eddie Redmayne has been heavily tipped for further recognition for his depiction of a transgender artist's journey from being a man to becoming a woman in the early 1930s.
FANS CAMP OUT FOR JOHNNY DEPP
As well as showcasing the films in competition, this year's festival hosted world premieres of three major Hollywood productions that will hope to be in the mix when Oscars time comes around next year.
They were Everest, a 3D drama based on a real-life disaster on the Himalayan peak, mobster saga Black Mass starring Johnny Depp, and Tom McCarthy's Spotlight, which recounts how the Boston Globe exposed the Catholic Church's efforts to cover up the scale of clerical sex abuse in the US city.
That ensured stars including Jake Gyllenhaal (Everest), Mark Ruffalo and Stanley Tucci (Spotlight) were spotted on the red carpet, although they could scarcely compete with Depp, whose appearance resulted in hundreds of fans camping out overnight to catch a glimpse of him with new wife Amber Heard, here promoting The Danish Girl, in which she has a supporting role.
Depp has been tipped as an Oscar contender for his role as Irish-American gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger in Black Mass, in which Australia's Joel Edgerton also won rave reviews for his performance as an FBI agent who gets too close to Bulger.
American director Brady Corbet picked up two awards for his much-admired Childhood Of A Leader - the Lion of the Future prize for a debut feature and best director in the Orizzonti (Horizons) section of the festival which provides a platform for world cinema.
The film, which stars Robert Pattinson, deals with the emergence of fascism in Europe through a fable-like story of the boyhood of a future dictator in the years following the end of World War I.