"Child's Pose", a mother-son drama set among post-communist Romania's new ruling class, won the Golden Bear top prize at the 63rd Berlin film festival Saturday.
Director Calin Peter Netzer, a member of Romania's renowned new wave in cinema, tells the story of a wealthy and controlling mother who fights to get her son acquitted after he kills a poor teenager with his car.
"I want to thank the jury for this amazing prize, this wonderful prize," Netzer told the panel led by Chinese director Wong Kar Wai.
The Berlinale, the first major European film festival of the year and typically its most politically minded, handed two top prizes to the Bosnian docu-drama "An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker".
Nazif Mujic, the real-life protagonist of the picture by Oscar-winning director Danis Tanovic about a Roma couple denied life-saving medical treatment, claimed the Silver Bear best actor prize.
The film also won the runner-up jury prize.
US independent director David Gordon Green picked up the Silver Bear best director award for his quirky buddy picture "Prince Avalanche", a remake of a 2011 Icelandic film, "Either Way".
The movie, the only comedy among the 19 contenders at the festival, stars Paul Rudd and Emile Hirsch as highway maintenance workers in Texas at crossroads in their lives.
The Silver Bear for best actress went to Chile's Paulina Garcia for her role in "Gloria", a feel-good movie about a middle-aged divorcee who refuses to give up on a shot at happiness.
The film was an early crowdpleaser in what critics called a fair-to-middling year in competition and a favourite to take home the Golden Bear.
Best screenplay went to "Closed Curtain" by Iranian dissident director Jafar Panahi and his longtime collaborator Kambuzia Partovi, a film made in defiance of a ban by the authorities in Tehran.
"It is impossible to stop a thinker and a poet -- it's never been possible to stop them. Their thoughts bear fruit everywhere," Partovi said, accepting the award because Panahi was not granted permission to travel to the festival.
"I have the dream of every artist and thinker: to be able to focus on my own thoughts and my own dreams in my country in the service of peace."
The debut feature of Kazakh writer-director Emir Baigazin, bullying drama "Harmony Lessons", grabbed a Silver Bear for extraordinary artistic achievement for its cinematographer Aziz Zhambakiyev.
"Child's Pose" emerged as an early front-runner in a particularly strong year for films exposing new fissures in the countries of the former communist bloc.
Lead actress Luminita Gheorghiu, best known for her prize-winning turn in the 2005 dark comedy "The Death of Mr Lazarescu", dazzled movie-goers in the role of a manipulative mother who sees the fatal accident as a chance to reconnect with her estranged son.
Producer Ada Solomon, who joined Netzer in accepting the award, said it was getting "harder and harder" to make quality pictures despite Romania's international reputation as a powerhouse in arthouse cinema.
"If I had to make the same film from today in Romania, it would not be possible to the same level," she said.
"I think that Romanian politicians should pay much more attention to the ambassador that our cinema is around the world. I want to thank those people who didn't help us and didn't support us and that made us more determined."
Critics noted a stand-out year for seasoned actresses at the festival including well-received performances by Catherine Denenuve, Juliette Binoche and Garcia, who before "Gloria" was known mainly for her work in telenovelas.
"Directors seem to have discovered the value of maturity and been anxious to explore the female face and psyche as they age, gracefully or otherwise," the trade magazine Hollywood Reporter wrote.