Iranian film A Separation has been awarded the 2011 Sydney Film Prize at the festival's official competition awards.

Sydney Film Festival jury president Chen Kaige said the $60,000 award went to a film which best demonstrated emotional power and resonance; is audacious, cutting-edge, courageous and goes beyond the usual treatment of the subject matter.

"This film looks beneath the surface of relations between men and women in Iran in a way that raises questions about law, freedom and feminine and masculine honour. It is an extremely courageous film, successfully executed. We honour the filmmakers."

A Separation previously won five awards at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival including the Golden Bear for Best Film and Silver Bears for Best Actress and Best Actor.

Kaige also made special mention of another film in competition, Cairo 678, for "its courage in using a popular form of cinema to successfully communicate the frustration and anger of women in Egypt with sexual harassment, and their determination to change this. It’s a film that resonates the world over”.

The 2011 official competition jury, led by Chinese director Chen Kaige, also included actor Kerry Fox, British producer Mark Herbert, Radio National senior film critic Julie Rigg and Australian director Sarah Watt.

The past three winners of the Sydney Film Prize are: Hunger (directed by Steve McQueen); Bronson (directed by Nicolas Winding Refn); and Heartbeats (directed by Xavier Dolan).

The $60,000 prize is sponsored by iShares and a Dinosaur Designs trophy is also presented to the winning film.

The other 11 films in competition for the top prize were: Amador (Director: Fernando León de Aranoa); Attenberg (Director: Athina Rachel Tsangari); Cairo 678 (Director: Mohamed Diab); The Forgiveness of Blood (Director: Joshua Marston); The Future (Director: Miranda July); Norwegian Wood (Director: Tran Anh Hung); Sleeping Beauty (Director: Julia Leigh); Take Shelter (Director: Jeff Nichols); Target (Director: Alexander Zeldovich); Toomelah (Director: Ivan Sen); The Tree of Life (Director: Terrence Malick).

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