CANNES, France — 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.
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. Presented as two films, “Che” follows Guevara and Fidel Castro’s triumphant guerrilla campaign to overthrow Cuba’s government in the late 1950s and Guevara’s downfall and execution after trying to foment a similar rebellion in Bolivia in the 1960s.
Del Toro also won in a unanimous jury vote, Penn said.
“I’d like to dedicate this to the man himself, Che Guevara,” said Del Toro. He also thanked Soderbergh, “who got up every day, forced me to this. … He was there pushing it, and he pushed all of us.”
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. It was her first role in a feature film.
Palme d’Or (Golden Palm): “The Class,” Laurent Cantet (France).
Grand Prize: “Gomorrah,” Matteo Garrone (Italy).
Jury Prize: “Il Divo,” Paolo Sorrentino (Italy).
Special 61st Anniversary Prizes: Catherine Deneuve (France) and Clint Eastwood (United States).
Best Director: “Three Monkeys,” Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Turkey).
Best Actor: Benicio Del Toro, “Che” (United States).
Best Actress: Sandra Corveloni, “Linha de Passe” (Brazil).
Best Screenplay: “Lorna’s Silence,” Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Belgium).
Golden Camera (first-time director): “Hunger,” Steve McQueen (Britain).
Best short film: “Megatron,” Marian Crisan (Romania).