Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul scored a surprise win at the Cannes film festival Sunday, bagging top prize for a surreal reincarnation tale, “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.”

Spanish actor Javier Bardem, who plays a good-hearted terminally-ill hustler in “Biutiful” by Mexico’s Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, shared the best actor award with Italy’s Elio Germano, star of family drama “Our Life”.

And France’s Juliette Binoche was named best actress for her role as an unhappy art dealer in “Certified Copy” by Iran’s Abbas Kiarostami.

Apichatpong was an unexpected Palme d’Or winner after critics strongly tipped French director Xavier Beauvois, who took the runner-up Grand Prix for “Of Gods and Men”, about Catholic monks threatened by Islamists in Algeria.

“This is like another world for me… this is surreal,” Apichatpong told a packed hall after receiving the Palme from the head of the festival jury, US film-maker Tim Burton, who is likewise known for his fantastical storylines.

The 39-year-old Thai director thanked “the spirits… in Thailand that surrounded us” while making the film, a hypnotic meditation on the afterlife featuring a humanoid monkey ghost and a princess having sex with a catfish.

It was only the sixth Asian film to win the top prize at Cannes in seven decades of the festival, and the first for more than a decade. Five Asian entries had competed for the top prize this year.

Frenchman Mathieu Amalric won the best director prize for “On Tour”, about a troupe of buxom American stripteasers touring French seaside towns, while South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong’s “Poetry” scooped best screenplay.

Chadian director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s “A Screaming Man” took the jury prize, a mark of special recognition alongside the main awards. His was the first movie from sub-Saharan Africa in the running for the Palme in 13 years.

The prize-giving surprised many critics who had tipped Britain’s Mike Leigh for an award for his convincing family drama “Another Year.”

Hundreds of celebrity-spotters lined the waterfront around the festival hall as the stars attended Sunday night’s gala ceremony.

Critics pegged this edition of the world’s biggest film fair as more low-key than usual, with fewer stars and hit movies, though Hollywood heavyweights such as Michael Douglas, Russell Crowe and Cate Blanchett showed up.

The main competition also drew some big arthouse names, including three former Palme-winning directors: Leigh, his fellow Briton Ken Loach and Kiarostami.

Binoche hailed Kiarostami, who is regarded as one of the world’s finest film-makers but whose work is little shown in his native country due to censorship by its hardline Islamic leaders.

“The camera revealed me in my femininity, my complexity,” Binoche said of Kiarostami’s quiet film about a mysterious love affair in Italy — his first shot outside Iran.

She brandished a sign with the name of Jafar Panahi, the Iranian film-maker who was prevented from joining the festival jury. He has been in jail in Tehran since March, accused of planning a film against the Islamic regime.

The French government and the festival had demanded Panahi’s release and the film-maker himself spoke out against his jailers in a letter read out by Cannes organizers.

Germano, little-known outside Italy, won the joint prize with Bardem for his performance in Daniele Luchetti’s “Our Life”, a gritty indictment of Italian society under Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

“I dedicate this film to Italy and the Italians who are doing all in their power to make the country better despite its leaders,” the 29-year-old actor said.

Last year’s best actress, France’s Charlotte Gainsbourg, starred in the last film of this year’s festival — “The Tree”, a Franco-Australian movie directed by Julie Bertuccelli which closed the 12-day event.

Last year the Palme went to Austrian director Michael Haneke for “The White Ribbon.” -Agence France-Presse

Here is the list of winners for the 63rd Cannes Film Festival:

FEATURE FILMS IN COMPETTION

Palme d’Or

LUNG BOONMEE RALUEK CHAT (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives) by Apichatpong WEERASETHAKUL [UK, Thailand,
France, Germany, Spain]

Grand Prix

DES HOMMES ET DES DIEUX (Of Gods And Men) by Xavier BEAUVOIS [France]

Award for the Best Director

Mathieu AMALRIC for TOURNÉE (On Tour) [France]

Jury Prize

UN HOMME QUI CRIE (A Screaming Man) by Mahamat-Saleh HAROUN [France, Belgium]

Best Performance for an Actor

Javier BARDEM in BIUTIFUL réalisé par Alejandro GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU [Spain]

(tied with)

Elio GERMANO in LA NOSTRA VITA (Our Life) réalisé par Daniele LUCHETTI [Italy, France]

Best Performance for an Actress

Juliette BINOCHE in COPIE CONFORME (Certified Copy) by Abbas KIAROSTAMI [France, Italy, Iran]

Award for the Best Screenplay

LEE Chang-dong for POETRY [Korea]

SHORT FILMS IN COMPETTION

Palme d’Or

CHIENNE D’HISTOIRE (Barking Island) by Serge AVÉDIKIAN [France]

Jury Prize

MICKY BADER (Bathing Micky) by Frida KEMPFF [Sweden, Denmark]

CAMERA D’OR

AÑO BISIESTO réalisé par Michael ROWE présenté dans le cadre de la Quinzaine des Réalisateurs

UN CERTAIN REGARD

Un Certain Regard Prize – Fondation Groupama GAN pour le cinéma

HAHAHA by HONG Sangsoo [Korea]

Jury Prize

OCTUBRE (Octobre) by Daniel VEGA & Diego VEGA [Peru, Venezuela, Spain]

The Prize for Best Performance Un Certain Regard

Adela SANCHEZ, Eva BIANCO, Victoria RAPOSO in LOS LABIOS (The lips) by Ivan FUND & Santiago LOZA [Argentina]

CINEFONDATION

First Cinéfondation Prize

TAULUKAUPPIAAT (The Painting Sellers) by Juho KUOSMANEN

Second Cinéfondation Prize

COUCOU-LES-NUAGES (Anywhere out of the world) by Vincent CARDONA

Third Cinéfondation Prize

HINKERORT ZORASUNE (The Fith Column) by Vatche BOULGHOURJIAN
A VEC JESAM SVE ONO ŠTO ŽELIM DA IMAM (I Already am Everything I Want to Have) by Dane KOMLJEN

The Jury of the CST has awarded the “PRIX VULCAIN DE L’ARTISTE-TECHNICIEN” to:

Leslie SHATZ, for the sound of the film BIUTIFUL by Alejandro GONZÁLEZ IÑÁRRITU.

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