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French director Claire Burger’s drama “Real Love,” about the struggle with parenthood of a separated father of two daughters in a village on the Franco-German border, has won the Giornate Degli Autori Director’s Award, the top nod in Venice’s independently run section formerly known as Venice Days.

In Burger’s first solo feature — following 2014’s Caméra d’Or-winning “Party Girl,” which she co-directed —Belgian actor Bouli Lanners  (“Rust and Bone”) plays a bearded low-level government administrator forced into intensive single fatherhood when his wife takes off to thinks things over.

The jury in a statement described “Love” as “an extremely engaging story about the difficult situations in which life can put us, whether it’s a marriage ending, or our heart being broken for the first time.” They chose film “for its tenderness and for the extraordinary technical mastery that the director displays.” 

The award comes with a cash prize of € 20,000 ($23,000), which is split equally between the director and the film’s international distributor, in this case France’s Indie Sales which must agree to use the sum to promote the winning film internationally.

The prizewinner is chosen by a jury of 28 young European movie buffs, overseen this year by Italian director Jonas Carpignano (“A Ciambra”).

In separate news, Austrian director Sudabeh Mortezai’s “Joy,” an intimate portrait of a Nigerian refugee named Joy who is forced into prostitution, won the Europa Cinemas Label as Best European Film in the Giornate Degli Autori section.

The prize decided by a jury of European exhibitors means that “Joy” will benefit from promotional support from EU-funded Europa Cinemas to have it play in its network of theaters.

“Joy” director Mortezai also won a new Giornate Degli Autori prize introduced this year, the Hearst Film Award for best female filmmaker in this section, worth € 10,000 in cash.

The Venice Film Festival’s official selection prizes will be announced Saturday.