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NEW YORK (Reuters) - A German film about a young woman who flees an oppressive life in Istanbul and moves to Berlin and a documentary about a Down Syndrome couple won the top prizes at the Tribeca Film Festival on Thursday.
"When We Leave (Die Fremde)" by Austrian filmmaker Feo Aladag took two awards including best narrative feature and best actress for Germany's Sibel Kekilli. "Monica & David," by first-time director Alexandra Codina, won the best documentary prize for a portrait of an American Down Syndrome couple in love and preparing for their marriage.
Tribeca, which has grown into a high-profile film festival since its launch in 2002, has previously featured movies that went on to win critical success including "Taxi to the Dark Side." This year, the festival launched a new distribution arm and online streaming for web audiences.
The award-winning films were among 85 feature-length movies shown at the festival -- including 55 narrative features and 30 documentaries -- which ends on Sunday. Among the jurors picking award-winners were singer Alicia Keys and actors Zach Braff, Brooke Shields, Jessica Alba and Whoopi Goldberg.
In a statement, the jurors noted the passion for film that the actors and director showed in making "When We Leave," saying it "balances complex social issues with honest human yearnings." Director Aladag spent six years working on it, and she rehearsed the actors for an unusually long seven months.
"Recognizing both the talent of director Feo Aladag and actress Sibel Kekilli is a testament to the strength of the film," said David Kwok, Tribeca's program director.
French actor Eric Elmosnino was named best actor in a feature film playing Serge Gainsbourg in a new biopic of the singer, famed for the heavy-breathing classic "Je t'aime ... Moi Non Plus" ("I Love You, Me Neither").
Special jury mentions were given to the Italian-subtitled "Loose Cannons" by Turkish director Ferzan Ozpetek about two Italian gay brothers, as well as U.S. director Julia Bacha's documentary "Budrus" about a family man who leads Israeli and Palestinian protesters in a nonviolent crusade to save his village.
French director Kim Chapiron won the best new narrative filmmaker award for "Dog Pound," a chilling drama that follows three teenagers incarcerated in a detention center, and Clio Barnard was named best new documentary filmmaker for "The Arbor," about British playwright Andrea Dunbar.
"Monica and David" currently is the only film among the winners to have a U.S. distribution deal. Along with the other winners, it was awarded $25,000 for its win. A spokeswoman for Tribeca said there were offers on the table for other festival films and expected deals to hopefully close by next week.
Alex Gibney's "My Trip to Al-Qaeda" scored an early distribution deal with HBO Documentary Films and was one of three movies Gibney screened at the festival.
Gibney's 2007 documentary "Taxi to the Dark Side," which examines U.S. treatment of prisoners in Afghanistan and Iraq, won the best documentary Oscar.
editing by Bob Tourtellotte