Icy Russian Arctic drama "How I Ended This Summer" won the best-picture prize at the London Film Festival on Wednesday, and British director Clio Barnard took two awards for her innovative drama-documentary "The Arbor."
Actress Patricia Clarkson, who headed the best-film judging panel, praised Alexei Popogrebsky's "visceral psychological drama" about two meteorologists who clash at a remote polar research station. She sad "How I Ended This Summer" was "a cinematic tour de force ... tense, moving and universal in its scope."
The Russian film beat a shortlist that included ballet thriller "Black Swan," Academy Award-tipped royal stuttering drama "The King's Speech" and the Cannes Film Festival top prizewinner "Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives."
The 54-year-old London festival introduced a best-film prize last year as part of a bid to boost its profile and compete with better-known events in Berlin, Venice and Toronto.
The festival's awards were handed out at a black-tie dinner ceremony in London's 18th-century St. Luke's church. Among those attending was director Martin Scorsese, who paid tribute to the work of the festival organizer, the British Film Institute, in preserving old movies.
Barnard won the best debut feature and best British newcomer awards for "The Arbor," an innovative docudrama about the short life and troubled legacy of working-class playwright Andrea Dunbar.
Barnard interviewed family and friends of Dunbar, who stormed the theater scene in the 1980s with savagely funny plays about northern English life, but died of a brain hemorrhage in 1990 at the age of 29. On-screen the words are lip synched by actors, creating a hybrid of drama and documentary that won praise from critics and audiences.
The festival's artistic director, Sandra Hebron, called it "a challenging, moving and utterly memorable film."
The Grierson prize for documentary went to "Armadillo," Janus Metz's film about Danish soldiers in Afghanistan.
Director Danny Boyle received the British Film Institute Fellowship, a lifetime achievement award, in recognition of a career that stretches from attention-grabbing 1990s British films like "Shallow Grave" and "Trainspotting" to "Slumdog Millionaire," the world-conquering story of a quiz-winning Indian teenager. It won eight Academy Awards in 2009, including best director.
Boyle's latest film, "127 Hours," closes the festival on Thursday. It stars James Franco as climber Aron Ralston, who amputated his own arm with a dull blade after it was trapped by a boulder in a canyon in Utah.
The two-week festival of more than 300 films from 68 countries opened Oct. 13 with "Never Let Me Go," starring Carey Mulligan, Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield as boarding school friends groomed for a sinister fate.