Cannes ‘08: Palme d’Or winner ‘The Class,’ others include ‘Gomorra,’ director Nuri Bilge Ceylan, actor Benicio Del Toro, ‘Hunger’

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Choosing from 22 competing films in the Festival de Cannes’ official selection, Jury President Sean Penn, with the help of nine jurists, including actress Natalie Portman and director Alfonso Cuaron, unanimously gave the Palme D’or to Laurent Cantet‘s ‘The Class,’ about a teacher who is challenged by his students in a tough junior high school in Paris.

In his acceptance speech Cantet noted he was disappointed that the film business has not been especially open to making films that are slightly offbeat. But with ‘The Class,’ he said, he was able to accomplish something ideal to him.


‘Though I’m capable of sinking into the depths of darkest doubt at times, with this film there was a sort of lightness, due to the energy and strength of all the people with me here, who are born actors, just terrific,’ Cantet said. ‘The film we wanted to make was supposed to look like French society: multi-faceted, lively, and complex, with conflicts that the film was not going to try to gloss over.’

The jury’s Grand Prize was presented by Roman Polanski to ‘Gomorra,’ director Matteo Garrone’s spectacularly gritty realization of the Neapolitan crime clique.


The jury gave special awards to actress Catherine Deneuve, who stars in Un Certain Regard’s ‘Je Veux Voir’ and the very well-received competition film ‘A Christmas Story.’

‘I am still happy today, to make films like this one, so full of energy, intelligence, sensitivity, and uniqueness,’ Deneuve said.

The jury also gave special recognition to Clint Eastwood whose film ‘Changeling,’ starring Angelina Jolie, screened in competition.

Best director
Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan won for ‘Three Monkeys,’ a stylized and slow-paced melodramatic tale about a family that refuses to deal with the truth of its actions and deceptions against one another.

Best screenplay
Beloved in Europe and continuing to win over fans on other continents, the Dardenne brothers’ latest Cannes entry, ‘Lorna’s Silence,’ about a young Albanian woman living in Belgium who becomes an accomplice to a diabolical plan devised by a mobster, won best screenplay.

Best actor/actress
Benicio Del Toro won best actor for his portrayal of Latin American revolutionary Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh‘s 4 1/2-hour epic ‘Che.

Del Toro was joined by Sandra Corveloni, who won best actress for her turn as a single mother raising four sons, with a fifth on the way, by working as a maid in Sao Paolo in the Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas film ‘Linha de Passe.’

Camera D’Or
First-time filmmaker Steve McQueen, who shocked and appalled some audience members with ‘Hunger,’ his violent and brutal depiction of life in Northern Ireland’s notorious Maze prison during the IRA’s 1981 hunger strike, took home the festival’s Camera D’Or.

McQueen thanked the Jury and said it was one of his ‘great pleasures to receive this from one of my personal heroes, (award presenter) Dennis Hopper,’ a man who takes chances.

‘Within the prison, there were prison officers who I identify with and protestors with whom I identify,’ McQueen said. ‘The film is about people in a situation and what these people do.’

The film’s star, Irish actor Michael Fassbender earned raves during the festival for his performance as IRA hunger-striker Bobby Sands. A Camera D’Or Special Mention was granted to ‘Everybody Dies But Me’ by Valeria Gaï Guermanika, presented at Directors’ Fortnight.

Cannes’ best short film prize went to ‘Megatron,’ by Marian Crisan, about a Romanian boy who celebrates his birthday at McDonald’s but would prefer the gift of meeting his father.

A special mention was awarded to short filmmaker Julius Avery for ‘Jerrycan,’ about a kid who takes a terrible risk after being bullied by peers. Just nine films were in the running in the short film category.

-- Sheigh Crabtree

Related: Un Certain Regard winners: ‘Tulpan,’ ‘Tokyo Sonata,’ ‘Wolke 9,’ ‘Tyson’ and ‘Johnny Mad Dog.’

For a complete list of official competition winners continue below:

The Class,’ directed by Laurent Cantet

Catherine Deneuve and Clint Eastwood

‘Gomorra,’ directed by Matteo Garrone

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, for ‘Three Monkeys’

Jean-Pierre et Luc Dardenne, ‘Lorna’s Silence’

Benicio Del Toro, in ‘Che’

Sandra Corveloni, in ‘Linha de Passe’

Hunger by Steve McQueen

Everybody Dies But Me by Valeria Gaï Guermanika

Megatron by Marian Crisan

Jerrycan by Julius Avery