Nadav Lapid has become the first Israeli director to win the Berlin Film Festival's top prize with his movie about a young ex-Israeli soldier fleeing to Paris with conflicting feelings about his homeland winning the Golden Bear for best picture.
Exploring the Israeli sense of identity, Tel Aviv-born Lapid's autobiographical Synonyms was one of 16 films competing for the 69th Berlinale's prestigious awards on Saturday; it drew heavily on his personal experience.
The Golden Bear and the Berlinale's other major prizes were handed out by the six-member jury headed by Oscar-winning French actress Juliette Binoche at a Hollywood-style gala in Berlin.
Starring Tom Mercier in the main role, Synonyms was Lapid's third feature following his critically acclaimed Policeman and The Kindergarten Teacher.
"I think my films contain great criticism and also great attachment to Israel," he said.
Accepting his award, Lapid said Synonyms might be seen as a scandal in Israel.
But he said: "Fury, rage and hostility are only between brothers and sisters ... with strong emotions and powerful attachments."
Announcing the awards, the jury also honoured France's Francois Ozon for his hard-hitting tale of sex abuse in the Catholic Church in Grace a Dieu (By the Grace of God) with the Berlinale's second-most important award, the Grand Jury Prize.
Making his fifth appearance in Berlin's showcase competition, Ozon shows in his film the corrosive impact that sex abuse perpetuated by priests has on the lives of those affected and delves into the wider aspects of French family life and society, and the power wielded by the Catholic Church.
Germany's Angela Schanelec was one of a record seven female directors included in this year's showcase competition, with her film Ich war zuhause, aber ("I was at home, but") about the impact on a woman of the week-long disappearance of her 13-year-old son winning the Silver Bear for best director.
Chinese actors Yong Mei and Wang Jingchun won the Silver Bears for Best Actress and Actor for their portrayal of a couple in Shanghai-born Wang Xiaoshuai's epic journey through China's recent past.
Stretching over three hours, Wang's Di jiu tian chang ("So Long, My Son") draws on a 30-year sweep of Chinese history, including the ideological upheaval of Mao Zedong's Cultural Revolution, the one-child policy, and the social impact of market reforms and the emergence of a new middle class.
Italy's Maurizio Braucci, Claudio Giovannesi and Roberto Saviano won the Silver Bear for best script for La Paranza dei bambini ("Piranhas"), about a brutal drug-dealing group of gun-wielding teenager boys who terrorise the the streets of Naples.
Directed by Claudio Giovannesi, the movie is based on a novel by Roberto Saviano, who has risked his life to write extensively about organised crime.
Australian Associated Press