“Happening”, a hard-hitting French drama about illegal abortion in the 1960s, won the Golden Lion award for best film at the Venice Festival on Saturday (September 11).

The film, by director Audrey Diwan, wowed viewers on the Lido waterfront with its portrayal of a young woman desperate to arrange a termination, at a time when it could mean a prison term or death, to continue with her studies.

The runner-up Grand Jury prize went to Italian director Paolo Sorrentino for “The Hand of God,” his deeply personal film about losing his parents as a teenager.

New Zealand’s Jane Campion, back on the big screen after a 12-year hiatus, won the Silver Lion for best director with 1920s frontier saga “The Power of the Dog.”

The awards for the 78th edition of the festival on the Lido waterfront brought the curtain down on a high-quality and star-studded 11-day movie marathon, with critics calling the contest one of the most unpredictable in years.

“Happening” is the second French film to win a major festival since Julia Ducournau’s serial-killer movie “Titane” scooped the Palme D’Or in Cannes with in July.

Among other awards handed out in Venice, Penelope Cruz won the best actress prize for her role as a single mother in Pedro Almodovar’s “Parallel Mothers.” The best actor prize went to John Arcilla from the Philippines for “On The Job: The Missing 8.”