The compelling crime thriller was chosen out of six films in competition for the prize, all of which are screening at the festival.

The latest film by Gomorrah director Matteo Garrone, Dogman is the tale of a gentle dog-lover in desolate southern Italy who is driven to terrifying extremes by a violent local bully.

Based on a true story, the film is inspired by the gruesome murder of former boxer Giancarlo Ricci at the hands of Pietro De Negri, which shook Italy in 1988.

The winner of the award was selected by an esteemed official jury gathered by Palace Cinemas and led by film writer for The Australian, Philippa Hawkeras.

The jury comprised: Melbourne-based arts journalist and author Gabriella Coslovich; director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Melbourne Laura Napolitano; filmmaker and festival guest Lisa Camillo (director of Balentes – The Brave Ones); executive producer of SBS Radio’s Italian program Magica Fossati; and Roberta Ciabarra, film programmer and curator at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image.

“After a lively, invigorating discussion, we made our choice. We awarded the prize to Matteo Garrone’s outstanding film, Dogman, for its impeccably realised vision and strong performances, particularly from Marcello Fonte as the tragic central character,” the jury said in a statement.

“We would also like to commend Alice Rohrwacher’s Happy As Lazzaro, a work of audacity and originality, a potent combination of the miraculous and the everyday.”

The Bulgari Critics’ Choice Award is the most recent accolade in a series of honours that Dogman has received.

It won Best Actor for Marcello Fonte and the Palm Dog at the Cannes Film Festival in May, it was named Best International Film at the Jerusalem Film Festival, and the Italian National Syndicate of Film Journalists awarded it the Silver Ribbon.

Last Tuesday, it was also announced as Italy’s candidate for the foreign language Oscar.

Garrone was pleased with his film’s latest achievement.

“I am delighted to receive the news of this prize which I share with everyone who has worked on the film,” he said.

“In particular Marcello, who has been able to carry the weight of the story on his shoulders making it possible for the film to arrive to the hearts of audiences across the world.”