The 58th Venice International Film Festival wrapped Saturday with Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding winning the coveted Golden Lion for best film.
Nair, the 44-year-old director of such thought-provoking movies as Mississippi Masala and Kamasutra: A Tale of Love, became the first woman to snag the top prize in the festival's 58-year history.
Monsoon, her tale of a young Indian bride who struggles to come to terms with her arranged marriage, also marked the first time India was honored with the accolade as well-- a big surprise given the movie was not even picked by critics to win.
"I am very pleased for India. We have a very powerful cinema industry, but it is only really known to half the world," Nair told reporters following her victory. "Now it is known to the other half as well. This award gives India great pride and great honor."
As for her breaking the gender barrier, Nair, a New Delhi native, said, "I am not one to hold a flag. If we win and we happen to be women, then wonderful."
The other big winner was Austrian director Ulrich Seidl who won the Grand Jury Prize for Hundstage, his story about love and sexual longing.
"Getting an award is one thing, but getting one in Venice is another--it's a great honor," Seidl told a packed house at Venice's Sala Grande Theater.
French director Laurent Cantet's The Use of Time won the second Golden Lion award for the newly created competition category, Cinema of the Present. Best Director went to Iranian filmmaker Babak Payami for The Secret Ballot, his tale of a voting box that magically falls out of the sky on election day in Iran.
Famed Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron picked up the Best Screenplay trophy for Y tu Mama Tambien (And Your Mother Too), a comedic film about two boys who plan a road trip to an imaginary beach in order to seduce an older Spanish woman. Both young stars, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna, shared the Marcello Mastroianni Award for best young actor/actress.
The lead acting honors went to Italian thesps Sandra Ceccarelli and Luigi lo Cascio, the costars of director Giuseppe Piccioni's Light of my Eyes.
Slovenian director Jan Cvitkovic took home a special Lion for his debut feature, Kruh in Mlkeo.
On Friday, legendary French New Wave director Eric Rohmer was honored with a lifetime achievement award for a career spanning more than 40 years. His work features such pioneering films as 1969's My Night at Maud's, for which the 81-year-old filmmaker was nominated for a Best Screenplay Oscar, and 1970's Love in the Afternoon.
This year's gathering on the Lido fell short on star power its final few days--it seemed Johnny Depp was the last celeb staying through to the end--but still packed a punch.
Among the Tinseltown types going gondola this year were Nicole Kidman, Denzel Washington, Charlize Theron, Paul McCartney and Haley Joel Osment, who came in place of Steven Spielberg, who had to bow out from appearing this year's fest to attend his 13-year-old son's bar mitzvah.