The festival award ceremony was held Saturday night at the Banqueting House in central London, The Hollywood Reporter said.
Philip French, who was recently awarded a BFI fellowship and is president of the official competition jury, presented Pawlikowski with the award.
"We were deeply moved by a courageous film that handles, with subtlety and insight, a painfully controversial historical situation -- the German occupation and the Holocaust – which continues to resonate," French said. "Special praise went to his use of immersive visual language to create a lasting emotional impact."
Other winners at the festival included screenwriter Jonathan Asser, who won the Best British newcomer award for his drama "Starred Up," directed by David Mackenzie. Director Anthony Chen, took home the best first feature award for his film "Ilo Ilo."