REUTERS

REUTERS

Austrian director Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, a chilling exploration of the roots of Nazi terror, dominated the European Film Awards on Saturday, winning three prizes including best film.

In the black-and-white film, a sinister series of crimes rocks a village in northern Germany on the eve of World War One, and appears linked to a group of children brutalized and scarred by their parents.

The White Ribbon also won the prestigious Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival earlier this year.

The 2,000-member European Film Academy awarded Haneke the best film, best director and best screenwriter prizes at the 22nd anniversary ceremony in Bochum, in the industrial Ruhr area of western Germany.

British actress Kate Winslet scooped up another award for her portrayal of a German woman with a secret Nazi past in the romantic drama The Reader, winning best actress.

Titanic star Winslet has also won an Oscar, a British BAFTA and German Bambi for her depiction of Hanna Schmitz, a former Nazi prison guard who embarks on an affair with a teenage boy.

Newcomer Tahar Rahim won best actor for portraying a homeless and illiterate 19-year-old at the mercy of a Corsican gang that controls the jail where he is imprisoned, in Jacques Audiard's French film A Prophet.

The Oscar-garlanded Slumdog Millionaire, an against-all-odds love story set in the teeming slums of Mumbai, scooped up the People's Choice award, decided by cinema-goers throughout Europe who vote online or at cinemas.

The European Film Academy was founded in 1989 to promote European film, with Swedish director Ingmar Bergman as its first president. The European Film Awards have yet to gain the prestige of high-profile European film festivals in Cannes, Venice and Berlin but are widely respected in the film industry.

The awards are traditionally held in Berlin every other year, but exceptionally took place in Bochum this year, in the Century Hall -- a former gas power station of the steel mills.

Last year's awards were held in Copenhagen, where the Italian mafia drama Gomorra won five prizes including best film, best director and best actor.