Hunger, UK artist-turned-filmmaker Steve McQueen's portrait of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands in his dying days, has won the inaugural A$60,000 Sydney Film Prize.

The film won the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival and wowed audiences when it screened twice as part of the Sydney Film Festival just over a week ago, so there was little surprise when the Australian filmmaker and jury president Gillian Armstrong made the announcement just before 8pm tonight at a black tie function at the Sydney Opera House.

'Hunger was selected for its controlled clarity of vision, its extraordinary detail and bravery, the dedication of its cast, and the power and resonance of its humanity,' Armstrong said of the film, which is being sold internationally and distributed in Australia by Icon.

The jury also commended two other films from among the 12 in competition: Silent Light from Mexican writer/director Carlos Reygadas and Three Blind Mice, which Australian writer/director/actor Matthew Newton made outside the traditional government-backed funding system.

Armstrong described Three Blind Mice as 'a fine collaboration by a talented group of young filmmakers' and said it had 'energy, passion and a superb ensemble cast'. Michael Favelle, principal of sales agent Odin's Eye, says he is in negotiation with Australian distributors on the just completed film about three young navy officers on their last night in Sydney before being shipped out to the gulf war.

The big winner at Mexico's top film awards this year, Silent Light, the story of a Mennonite community in crisis, was mentioned for its highly poetic and creative use of sound and image and the honest treatment of its universal story of love and pain. Bac Films International has already sold the film to Kojo Pictures for a local release.

The jury was asked to judge the competition titles on the basis that they represented 'audacious, cutting edge and courageous filmmaking'. On the jury with Armstrong were US film critic Scott Foundas, Iranian filmmaker Majid Majidi, Hong Kong producer Nansun Shi and Australian actress Essie Davis.

The festival opened with Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky on June 4 and has another six days to run. The other two world premieres besides Three Blind Mice were Nash Edgerton's The Square, also a local film, and Vincent Ward's Rain Of The Children, from New Zealand.

Various short film awards were also awarded:

2008 Rouben Mamoulian Award ($5000 cash prize): Summer Breaks

Director Sean Kruck; Producer Caroline Barry

2008 Dendy Award for short documentary ($5000 cash prize): Rare Chicken Rescue

Director Randall Wood; Producers Trish Lake, Vickie Gest

2008 Dendy Award for short fiction ($5000 cash prize): Ali and the Ball

Director Alex Holmes; Producer Helen Panckhurst

2008 Dendy Award for most innovative short ($5000 cash prize): Ephemeral

Directed and produced by Tony Radevski and Jongsu Oh

2008 Yoram Gross Animation Award ($4000 cash prize): Mutt

Director Glen Hunwick; Producer Beth Frey

2008 CRC Award ($5000 cash prize): 296 Smith Street

Director John Evagora; Producer Jorge Tsadilas