Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Sunday, 25 May 2008 19:55 UK

School movie wins Cannes honour


Unruly pupils rile their teacher in a clip from The Class

French movie The Class, about life in a tough Paris school, has won the coveted Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival.

The prize, awarded by a jury headed by Sean Penn, came at the end of the world's most prestigious film festival.

Directed by Laurent Cantet, The Class uses real students and teachers to chronicle a year in their lives.

Hunger, a portrayal of the last six weeks of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands' life, took the Camera d'Or prize for best first feature film.

Laurent Cantet and his cast
Director Laurent Cantet was joined by his cast of students at Cannes
Benicio Del Toro won best actor for his lead role in Steven Soderbergh's biopic of Cuban revolutionary Che Guevara.

"I'd like to dedicate this to the man himself, Che Guevara," he told the audience.

Del Toro won the best supporting actor Oscar for starring in Soderberg's 2000 movie Traffic.

Brazilian star Sandra Corveloni won best actress for playing a pregnant mother of four in Sao Paolo in Line of Passage.

Clint Eastwood and Catherine Deneuve won lifetime achievement awards at the French festival's closing ceremony.

Eastwood had been tipped as a possible winner of the Palme d'Or for Changeling, his missing child drama starring Angelina Jolie.

'Moving movies'

Penn praised the standard of films in competition at Cannes.

Benicio Del Toro
Palme d'Or - The Class
Grand Prix - Gomorrah
Special prizes - Clint Eastwood and Catherine Deneuve
Best director - Nuri Bilge Ceylan for Three Monkeys
Jury prize - Il Divo directed by Paolo Sorrentino
Best actor - Benicio del Toro (above) in Che
Best actress - Sandra Corveloni in Line of Passage
Best screenplay - Lorna's Silence by Jean Pierre and Luc Dardenne
Camera d'Or - Hunger

"There was a field of such powerful, emotional, moving movies and performances," he said.

"There were so many times that we thought it just can't get better."

The Class - based on an autobiographical novel by young teacher Francois Begaudeau - was praised by Penn as "an amazing, amazing film".

Director Cantet - who was joined on stage by his teenage cast - said he aimed to make a film that was "a reflection of French society - multiple, many-faceted, complex".

"Sometimes also with friction that the film does not try to cover up," he added.

Italian mafia movie Gomorrah, set in Naples and based on a book by Roberto Saviano, took the Grand Prix runner-up prize.

The third place jury prize went to Il Divo, Paolo Sorrentino's portrait of the country's former prime minister, Giulio Andreotti.

After the awards ceremony, the festival closed with the premiere of Barry Levinson's What Just Happened? - a tale of a fading Hollywood producer trying to lift his career, starring Robert De Niro, Bruce Willis and Sean Penn.

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