This year’s $52,000 (A$60,000) Sydney Film Prize has been awarded to love triangle story Heartbeats, from Canadian writer/director Xavier Dolan.

Heartbeats also secured a local distribution deal from Madman, an outcome Sydney Film Festival director Clare Stewart said was a direct result of the response from the festival audience.

“With a witty and insightful script and strikingly playful use of cinematic language, the jury found Heartbeats to be a boldly truthful and compassionate observation of one of the great crippling foibles of human nature – the hopeless crush,” said producer and jury president Jan Chapman (The Piano, Bright Star).

Russian writer/director Alexej Popogrebski’s How I Ended This Summer and Wasted on the Young, from Australian writer/director Ben C Lucas, both received honourable mentions.

How I Ended This Summer was an “interesting, accurate and subtle portrait of the male psyche in an incredible, beautiful environment”, Chapman told ScreenDaily. Wasted on the Young, which had its world premiere last night, impressed with its adventurous storytelling including the way cinematic language was used to illustrate how young people communicate and the consequences.

The Sydney Film Prize is for audacious, cutting edge and courageous films. Chapman said there had been many long and interesting discussions between the judges, who were looking for a film that was successful on its own terms.

Sundance Film Festival director John Cooper, Hong Kong director Yonfan, documentary filmmaker Lucy Walker and the writer/director of the opening night film, Shirley Barrett, were on the jury with Chapman.

It was generally acknowledged that Stewart, with the help of programs manager Jenny Neighbour, had chosen a very strong field for Australia’s richest film prize. This is only the third year of the competition.

The Sydney Film Prize was announced at a lunch today, the last day of the festival. Several additional awards for Australian documentaries and short films were announced before the screening of the closing night film, Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are Alright. They were:

FOXTEL Australian Documentary PrizeThe Snowman, director Juliet Lamont, producers Rachel Landers, Dylan Blowen.

Dendy Award for Best Live Action ShortThe Kiss, director Ashlee Page, producer Sonya Humphrey.

Rouben Mamoulian Awardfor Best DirectorDeeper Than Yesterday, director Ariel Kleiman, producers Anna Kojevnikov, Benjamin Gilovitz and Sarah Cyngler.

Yoram Gross Animation AwardThe Lost Thing, directors Shaun Tan, Andrew Ruhemann producer Sophie Byrne.

The Peter Rasmussen Innovation AwardPeter Morse.

2010 Community Relations CommissionAwardBad Language, director/producer Viron Papadopoulos.

Audience awards will be announced in a few days.