French classroom drama wins Cannes top prize

Despite hopes, Israeli director Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir wins no awards, although it did earn glowing reviews.

Laurent Cantet 88 224 (photo credit: )
Laurent Cantet 88 224
(photo credit: )
The French film The Class, a frank tale about classroom life using real students and teachers at a junior high school, won top honors Sunday at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Laurent Cantet, The Class (Entre les Murs) was the first French film to win the main prize, the Palme d'Or, at Cannes since Under Satan's Sun in 1987. The docudrama was shot in a raw, improvisational style to chronicle the drama that unfolds over one school year. The win was a unanimous decision among the nine-member Cannes jury, said Sean Penn, who headed the panel. "The movie that we wanted to make had to resemble French society, had to be multifaceted, a bit teeming, complex, and had to sometimes portray frictions that the film didn't try to erase," Cantet said. Despite hopes, Israeli director Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir won no awards, although it did earn glowing reviews. Italian films won the second-place grand prize and third-place jury prize. Matteo Garrone's Gomorrah, a study of the criminal underworld in Naples, took the grand prize, while Paolo Sorrentino's Il Divo, a lively portrait of former Premier Giulio Andreotti, won the jury award. Benicio Del Toro won the best-actor prize for Che, Steven Soderbergh's four-hour-plus epic about Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara. Del Toro, who costarred in Penn's 21 Grams, also won in a unanimous jury vote, Penn said. Sandra Corveloni was chosen as best actress for Linha de Passe, in which she plays the mother of four brothers struggling to make better lives for themselves in a Brazilian slum. Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan was named best director for Three Monkeys, which centers on a father who takes the rap for his employer's crime in exchange for financial support for his wife and son, only to have the scheme backfire amid bitter repercussions. Belgian siblings Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, two-time winners of the Palme d'Or, received the screenplay prize for Lorna's Silence, about an immigrant woman who enters a sham marriage to gain Belgian citizenship. The prize for a film by a first-time director went to British filmmaker Steve McQueen's Hunger, set at a Northern Ireland prison where IRA volunteer Bobby Sands and other inmates seeking Irish independence staged a hunger strike in 1981. The Cannes jury awarded special prizes to Clint Eastwood, who directed the competition film Changeling, and Catherine Deneuve, who appeared in two films at Cannes this year.