Israeli actress Hadas Yaron won the Coppa Volpi award for best actress at the 69th Venice Film Festival on Saturday.
Yaron, 22, won for her role in Rama Burshtein's film, "Fill the Void," about the ultra-Orthodox community.
The award is a huge achievement for Yaron, whose performance in "Fill the Void" is her first significant role.
"Fill the Void" is about a young bride torn between love and familial obligations. The film centers on Shira, an 18-year-old Hasidic girl who is thrilled about her forthcoming arranged marriage with a young man whom she has only briefly seen in a supermarket.
Tragedy strikes when Shira's older sister Esther dies giving birth, leaving the family crushed by grief.
Esther's husband Yochai is quickly pressed to remarry a widow in Belgium, but the girls' mother is desperate to keep her only grandchild in the country - and soon Shira is asked to step into her sister's shoes.
"I'm amazed and excited," said Yaron. "You can't prepare for such a moment. It's beyond my dreams.
"I would like to thank the jury for choosing to give me this wonderful award. A special thanks to Rama Burshtein and (producer) Assaf Amir for creating such a moving film. Thank you for believing in me from the start. Working on this film was a reward in itself.
"I would like to thank the wonderful cast, Yiftach Klein and Irit Sheleg, from the bottom of my heart. Thanks to Shira I learned to see people who are different and believe in the power of love."
"There are no words to describe our experience this past week. Love, like the one described in the film, is stronger than language and culture. Human emotions are a universal language, and we've realized that this week."
As for the other awards, South Korean director Kim Ki-duk's shocking drama "Pieta" won the Golden Lion for best film.
The Silver Lion for best director went to Paul Thomas Anderson for `'The Master," inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard. The film's stars, Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman, shared the prize for best actor during the ceremony.
AP, Reuters and AFP contributed to this report