A sombre tale of gay love across Venezuela's social divide, "Desde Alla" (From Afar), 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 "Anomalisa", their stop animation feature which they financed through crowdfunding.
"When we set out to make this film three years ago we had no idea if it would ever see the light, so this is a great way for it to come into the world," Johnson said.
"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 and paying them to undress for him.
Things start to change after he meets 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.
"I didn't make a film so everyone would like it," Vigas said. "I made it to make people talk about the many problems we have in Venezuela -- social, economic and political that we share with other Latin American countries."
Italy's Valeria Golina won the best actress award for "Per amor vostro" (For Your Love), a Naples-set drama by Giuseppe Gaudino.
Veteran French star Fabrice Luchini was named best actor for his turn as a cantankerous judge in Christian Vincent's "L'Hermine" (Courted), a courtroom love story 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."
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, "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.
They could scarcely compete with Depp. The "Pirates of the Caribbean" star's appearance on the Lido resulted in hundreds of fans camping out overnight to catch a glimpse of him with new wife Amber Heard, who won praise for her secondary role in "The Danish Girl".
Depp has been tipped as an Oscar contender for his portrayal of 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 the Irish-American gangster.
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.