'Touching the Void' wins best film award

A harrowing account of how two British climbers survived a disastrous mountaineering expedition beat Richard Curtis's romantic comedy Love Actually to a best film award yesterday.

Touching the Void, in which Joe Simpson and Simon Yates recount their 1985 ordeal in the Andes while actors reconstruct their experiences, won the top prize in the Evening Standard British Film Awards.

Kevin Macdonald's docu-drama recreates how their expedition went disastrously wrong when Mr Simpson broke his leg, and Mr Yates faced an awful choice when he realised he had to cut the rope tying them together to save his own life. The film, which has been nominated for a Bafta Outstanding British Film award, was described by the Evening Standard's film critic Neil Norman as "inventive and exciting film-making that deploys dramatisation and reminiscence to brilliant effect".

Although Love Actually lost out on the best film award, Emma Thompson won the best actress award for her performance in the film and Bill Nighy won the Peter Sellers award for comedy for his portrayal of an ageing rock star.

Paul Bettany won best actor for his parts in Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World and in the drama The Heart of Me. Master and Commander also gave an Eton schoolboy, Max Pirkis, an award. He was named ITV London's most promising newcomer for his part alongside Russell Crowe in the seafaring drama set during the Napoleonic wars.

The film director Michael Winterbottom received the inaugural Alexander Walker special award, named after the Evening Standard's veteran film critic who died last year. The awards, which were presented by the comedian Jack Dee, will be screened on ITV London on 5 February.