Chilling and well-crafted, women's visions take honours at the London Film Festival

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The Independent Online

The 48th London Film Festival ended last night with a star-studded premiere of the new Jude Law movie, I Heart Huckabees, and lots of awards honouring up- and-coming film talent. Three out of the five festival prizes went to women.

The Woodsman, the story of a paedophile, played by Kevin Bacon, trying to rebuild his life after prison, won top honours for Nicole Kassell, an American who was unable to receive her award last night as she is nearly nine months' pregnant.

She won the Satyajit Ray Foundation Award for a first feature film premiered in the UK at the London Film Festival. The award was established in the name of the late Indian director Satyajit Ray nine years ago to reflect "the artistry, compassion and humanity of Ray's own work".

Clyde Jeavons, who chaired the prize jury, said the choice of The Woodsman was unanimous. It was "an extremely well-crafted film debut by Nicole Kassell, which treats the controversial theme of paedophilia with great insight and sensitivity, thanks not least to Kevin Bacon's fine performance in the leading role".

Another woman, Amma Asante, won the £15,000 UK Film Talent Award, sponsored by Alfred Dunhill with the UK Film Council, for her directorial debut, A Way of Life, which offers a chilling insight into racism through the lives of five children.

Ms Asante, 34, a former child actress, said she was "trebly chuffed". She gave up acting in her early twenties when the roles for young black women dried up, but said she had always received a tremendous amount of support from the film industry.

Asked whether it was difficult being a black woman in film, she said she could not compare her experience with that of others.

"I am aware that there aren't many black women directors - there aren't many women - and of course it must be difficult. But it's a tough industry and I've chosen it and therefore I've made my bed," she said.

The Sutherland Trophy, which is awarded to the director of the most original and imaginative first feature screened at the festival and includes among its previous winners Bernardo Bertolucci, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Jean-Luc Godard and Peter Greenaway, went to Jonathan Caouette for his film Tarnation.

Caouette, a 31-year-old American actor, used Apple computers to make the film, which was a surprise hit at Cannes. It tells the story of Caouette's chaotic upbringing in a dysfunctional family marked by mental illness and was made for the staggeringly small sum of $218.32 (£118.55). Sandra Hebron, director of the London Film Festival, which is organised by the British Film Institute, said: "Tarnation is visionary film-making which genuinely pushes the boundaries of how we understand cinema. "

The £5,000 TCM Short Film Award winner was another woman, Harry Wootliff, 34, for Nits, her film about a boy, played by Jonathan Mason, whose sick mother has more things to deal with than checking his hair for nits. The International Critics Award went to Aaltra, a black comedy described as "a wheelchair road movie".