French school film is the Class act in Cannes

The Cannes Film Festival's Palme d'Or was won by the French production Entre les murs (The Class) last night. The film, directed by Laurent Cantet, used teachers and students to chronicle a year in the life of an inner-city school. "The film we wanted to make had to be a reflection of French society – multiple, many-faceted, complex," said Cantet. "Sometimes also with friction that the film does not try to cover up."

Benicio del Toro won the prize for best actor for his lead role in Guerrilla, Steven Soderbergh's biopic of Che Guevara. Accepting the award last night he dedicated it to the late revolutionary.

Many had been braced for an overtly political film to win the Palme d'Or, representing the "anti-Oscar" spirit of the festival that the firebrand jury president Sean Penn had said, a day earlier, that he was striving for.

With an eclectic choice of 22 contenders, whose gritty subjects ranged from Soderbergh's four hour, 18 minute epic to an Argentinian film set in a women's prison and an animated drama about the massacres at the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Lebanon, critics acknowledged that Cannes had one of its sharpest political edges for years.

Penn, who not only led the jury but appeared in the festival's closing film, What Just Happened?, had said that the winner of the Golden Palm was selected for its awareness of the "times in which we live".

He had gone further 24 hours earlier, advising his panel to "do just the opposite" of the Oscars and crown a groundbreaking, unconventional film.

"The best way to be honest is to try to emancipate ourselves from the effects of fashion, to try to find what will stay with us forever," he told Le Monde. "We've got to do the opposite of the Academy that gives out the Oscars, where manipulation and very good marketing are rewarded."

When the nominations were announced, it was evident that the shortlist was returning to its roots by selecting innovative international films.

Ari Folman's bleak, searing, animated film Waltz With Bashir had been tipped to take home the biggest prize of the festival. Several directors on this year's list, including Wim Wenders, chosen for Palermo Shooting, and Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, for Le Silence de Lorna, had picked up the Palme d'Or in previous years.

The tenor of the 12-day festival – which even Penn admitted could have done with a few more comedies – had been set with opening film, Blindness, a dystopian vision of the future based on a novel by Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago, with obvious political undertones.

Clint Eastwood's competition offering, Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie as a mother searching for her missing child, had been among the more serious Hollywood contenders, beside Charlie Kaufman's Synecdoche, New York.

Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas's Linha de Passe, a tale of four brothers in a Brazilian slum, had also been warmly received by critics as well as Matteo Garrone's Gomorra, a study of the criminal underworld in Naples and Nuri Bilge Ceylan's Three Monkeys, a family drama.

The Palme d'Or jury, which included the Hollywood actress Natalie Portman and Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, was asked by Penn not to read reviews of the films which he thought might colour their judgement.The British film Hunger, directed by the artist Steve McQueen, had been recognised in the Un Certain Regard category a day earlier.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Thomas carried Lady Edith over the flames in her bedroom in Downton Abbey series five

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

books
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Secret politics of the weekly shop

    The politics of the weekly shop

    New app reveals political leanings of food companies
    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Beam me up, Scottie!

    Celebrity Trekkies from Alex Salmond to Barack Obama
    Beware Wet Paint: The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition

    Beware Wet Paint

    The ICA's latest ambitious exhibition
    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Pink Floyd have produced some of rock's greatest ever album covers

    Can 'The Endless River' carry on the tradition?
    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    Sanctuary for the suicidal

    One mother's story of how London charity Maytree helped her son with his depression
    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits