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France gets Golden Palm after 21 years

Latest update : 2008-05-27

France's Laurent Cantet won the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival Sunday with "Entre les murs", a realistic drama about life in a Paris school. The event marks France's first Golden Palm after 21 years. (Report: A. Dupuis)


The 61st Cannes Film festival ended with a surprise Golden Palm for French film "Entre les murs" (The Class) by French director Laurent Cantet.

Benicio Del Toro picked up the Best Actor price for his interpretation of Che Guevara in Steven Soderbergh's two-part epic on the Argentine guerilla. The Grand Prix went to the Italian film "Gomorra", and another Italian film "Il Divo", by Paulo Sorrentino, received the Jury Prize.

Special prizes were also given to Clint Eastwood and Catherine Deneuve.

Surprise Golden Palm

The last day of the Cannes Film Festival is a difficult one. Most of the people have left, and the screenings have sparse attendance.

Such was the ambiance when "Entre les murs" (The Class)  by French director Laurent Cantet, was screened. Having been relatively disappointed with the other French films screened in competition - "Un conte de Noël" by Arnaud Desplechin and "La frontière de l'aube" (The Dawn Shore) by Philippe Garell - a lot of people avoided the third French film in competition.

However, on Saturday, the people who had seen the film began to sing its praises. When "Entre les murs"  won the Golden Palm, the general reaction was one of confusion. Not many people (including this reporter) had seen the film, so any judgement was superfluous.

But fortunately, a screening of the "Entre les murs" was scheduled just after the award cermony, and people flocked to see this mysterious last-minute work that upset all predictions.

"Entre les murs" is a realistic drama that takes place entirely within a school. Most of the action occurs in one classroon, where a French teacher tries to make a difference with his original teaching methods. Through witty and careful dialogue between students and teacher, serious politicial issues in France come to surface - religion, race, poverty, immigration and public service.

"Entre les murs", when released in France, is sure to create debate. The issues tackled in the film are very volatile, and the political consequences of the work will be interesting to observe.

Solitude amidst modern society

On the day that the Cannes Film festival nominations were announced, had asked the festival's director Thierry Frémeaux whether any particular theme encompassed the films presented this year. "I can't think of any specific themes at the moment," had replied Frémeaux. "But every year after the Festival, several themes emerge."

Indeed, as the red carpet is rolled up in preparation for next year, a look back on this year's selection reveals recurring portrayals of the individual  incompatible with the world that surrounds him.

Whether it be Ari Folman's character in the animated documentary "Waltz with Bashir", the heroine in the Dardenne Brothers' film "Lorna's Silence", the absurdity of the adolesent mafia trainees in "Gomorra", the desperate solitude of Angelina Jolie's character in Clint Eastwood's "The Exchange", the metaphor of lost vision in Fernando Mereille's "Blindness", or Benicio Del Toro's tragic determination in "Che", loneliness and silent repression predominated this year's selection.

This year, the films in Cannes reflected a world ridden by problems where individual longing is usurped by society's demands. A world where the human being does not understand what is around him, and is unable to integrate, and where human values exist no more.

Check out web correspondent Arnab Banerjee’s video blog.

Date created : 2008-05-25