Venice Film Festival

Italian director Gianfranco Rosi, right, receives the Golden Lion Award for the movie 'Sacro Gra' from Venice Biennale President Paolo Baratta. (EPA / September 7, 2013)

In a night of unexpected winners, Italian documentarian Gianfranco Rosi's study of the denizens of a famous highway circling Rome, "Sacro GRA," was awarded the Venice Film Festival's highest honor, the Golden Lion Award, Saturday.

The Silver Lion Award, the prize for directing, went to Greece’s Alexandros Avranas for his story of the apparent suicide of an 11-year-old girl, “Miss Violence.” The film was also awarded a special jury prize.

The Grand Jury Prize, a recent addition to the festival's awards, was given to Taiwan's "Stray Dogs," directed by Tsai Ming-liang. The film, a slow meditation on time and family with long drawn-out takes, is considered a step apart from traditional filmmaking.

VIDEO: Venice Film Festival 2013 trailers

Acting awards went to Themis Panou for his work in "Miss Violence" and Elena Cotta for "A Street in Palermo."

Many festival-watchers had thought the best actress prize might go to Judi Dench for her well-received work in "Philomena." That film did earn the best screenplay award, however, for Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope.

Tye Sheridan won the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor for his role in "Joe," a film starring Nicolas Cage as an ex-con.

Showing his unique sensibilities, Academy Award-winning director Bernardo Bertolucci headed the jury for the 70th annual affair, which began Aug. 28 and wrapped Saturday.

Films in competition included Jonathan Glazer's "Under the Skin," starring Scarlett Johansson; Peter Landesman's "Parkland" about the aftermath of President Kennedy's assassination; the Errol Morris documentary "The Unknown Known" about Donald Rumsfeld; "Night Moves," starring Jesse Eisenberg and Dakota Fanning; and actor James Franco's directorial effort "Child of God."

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