The Elite Squad, a violent tale of corrupt drug-squad officers in Brazil, has won the Golden Bear, the top prize at the annual Berlin Film Festival.
It had created unprecedented interest upon its release in Brazil, because of its portrayal of a police force willing to torture and kill unarmed suspects.
Producer Marcos Prado said the award "gives us the strength to go forward".
The UK's Sally Hawkins was best actress for Happy-Go-Lucky and Iran's Reza Naji won best actor on The Song of Sparrows.
Born in London, 31-year-old Hawkins has also appeared in Mike Leigh's abortion drama Vera Drake and has had an extensive television career.
The Rada-trained performer's TV appearances include several Little Britain episodes and the controversial lesbian drama Tipping the Velvet.
US filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson took the prize for best director for There Will Be Blood.
Hawkins said she was "on the edge of tears" in her acceptance speech
This epic story of an oil prospector is already nominated in eight categories at the Oscars, which are being held on 24 February.
Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai received the prize for best for In Love We Trust, while Lake Tahoe, directed by Fernando Eimbcke of Mexico, was named most innovative film.
A total of 21 pictures were screened in competition in the German capital for the 58th festival.