Venezuelan director Lorenzo Vigas' Caracas-set drama "From Afar" won the Venice Film Festival's Golden Lion prize for best picture on Saturday, as filmmakers from the Americas beat established European directors to the main trophies.
The festival's Grand Jury Prize, considered the runner-up trophy, went to an American film, Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson's inventive, animated "Anomalisa." And Pablo Trapero's "El Clan" ("The Clan"), an Argentine true-crime thriller that has broken box-office records in its homeland, took the Silver Lion for best direction.
"From Afar" — "Desde Alla" in Spanish — charts the unexpected relationship between a middle-aged, middle-class man and a street youth. Vigas dedicated his prize to his country, which has experienced severe political and economic instability.
"We are having some problems, but we are very positive," he said. "We are an amazing nation."
A jury led by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron chose winners from among 21 movies competing at the 72nd annual festival — an edition where war, crime and other woes of the world dominated onscreen.
Audiences saw African child soldiers drafted into a brutal civil war in Cary Fukunaga's "Beasts of No Nation;" Afghan civilians caught between the Taliban and Danish troops in Tobias Lindholm's "A War;" and Turkish brothers trapped in escalating political violence in Emin Alper's "Frenzy."
Director Jonathan Demme, jury president for the festival's Horizons competition for emerging talents, said many of the films gave "horrifying glimpses of how hard it is to stay alive in the world today."
The top Horizons prize went to U.S. director Jake Mahaffy's drama about a faith healing gone wrong, "Free In Deed."
Several hotly tipped European contenders were overlooked for prizes, including Italian filmmaker Marco Bellocchio's lush vampire fable "Blood of My Blood" and Russian director Aleksander Sokurov's art-history meditation "Francofonia."
Cuaron said he was "very happy" that a Latin American movie had won the Golden Lion for the first time. But he said it was a coincidence that it had happened when a Mexican headed the jury.
Italy's Valeria Golino took the best-actress trophy for playing a put-upon Neapolitan woman in Giuseppe Gaudino's experimental family drama "For Your Love." She took the same prize in 1986 for "A Tale of Love."
France's Fabrice Luchini was named best actor for his role as a judge trying to rekindle romance while presiding over a murder trial in Christian Vincent's "L'Hermine" ("Courted").
The jury also gave a prize for the best young actor to Abraham Attah, the 14-year-old Ghanaian star of "Beasts of No Nation."
Brady Corbet, a 27-year-old American actor-director, won the first-feature prize for "The Childhood of a Leader," an ambitious exploration of the roots of dictatorship that features Robert Pattinson.
An emotional Corbet offered the advice: "Be patient, be radical, be free."
The world's oldest film festival wrapped up Saturday after 11 days that brought stars including Jake Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart, Tilda Swinton and Johnny Depp to the canal-crossed Italian city for water-borne photo ops and red carpet premieres.
It also identified some early potential Oscar contenders, including Depp for his performance as gangster Whitey Bulger in "Black Mass," and Eddie Redmayne as a transgender artist in "The Danish Girl."