Still Life, by Chinese director Jia Zhang Ke, has won $25,000 for best film at the Adelaide Film Festival's inaugural competition.

The film is a meditation on the transformation of China, using the dams being built on the Yangtze River as its setting. Last year it won the Golden Lion at Venice.

The jury also gave a special mention to Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes And A Century, a film that thumbs its nose at traditional film narrative.

Jury head Noah Cowan, co-director of the Toronto International Film Festival Group, congratulated the Adelaide event on selecting films for the competition that took risks. He said that Still Life had won for its 'bold, powerful artistic vision' and Syndromes And A Century was mentioned because of its 'sheer beauty and radical approach to cinema'.

The FIPRESCI prize, open to debut or second films and judged by critics, chose Mahamat-Selh Haroun's film Daratt as the winning film. It was one of six commissioned under Peter Sellars New Crowned Hope Festival, which commemorated the 250th anniversary of Mozart's birth. Sellars was the director of the 2002 Adelaide Festival of the Arts and was influential in the city's film festival establishing an investment fund.

The awards were announced on the eleventh and final night of the festival, before the world premiere of Rolf de Heer's Dr Plonk.

The biennial Adelaide Film Festival is only six years old but it is the first Australian film festival to introduce a fully fledged competition. Director Katrina Sedgwick said the competition had allowed her to highlight 12 important films and had helped build interest in the event. Ticket sales are expected to be 25% up on the last festival, held two years ago.