CANNES, France (Reuters) - British veteran director Ken Loach won his second Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival when "I, Daniel Blake", his latest social-realist drama, took the Best Picture award on Sunday.
Loach, 79, is one of only nine directors to have won the top prize at Cannes twice. Loach had won in 2006 with "The Wind That Shakes the Barley."
Addressing the Grand Theatre des Lumieres crowd in French, Loach said: "Thanks to the team, the writer (Paul Laverty), the producer (Rebecca O'Brien) and all the others.
"Thanks also to the workers of the Cannes Festival who make this event possible."
Loach remains just as passionate about social injustice as when his TV play "Cathy Come Home" shocked viewers 50 years ago with its depiction of a slide into homelessness.
Switching to English, Loach said he found it very strange to receive an award in such opulent surroundings given the miserable living conditions of the people who inspired his film.
“When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage,” Loach said. “We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”
"I, Daniel Blake", shows how Britain's social security system conspires to drive a downtrodden carpenter and a single mother of two into poverty in the northeastern city of Newcastle.
Stand-up comedian Dave Johns plays joiner Daniel who is denied disability benefits when unable to work through illness. He befriends young mother Katie, played by Hayley Squires, as they battle with the welfare system.
The Iranian film "Forushande" (The Salesman) by Asghar Farhadi received two awards, for Best Screenplay and for Best Actor, won by Shahab Hosseini.
Canadian director Xavier Dolan, who won the Jury Prize with "Mommy" in 2014, received the Grand Prix for his "Juste la Fin du Monde" (It's Only the End of the World).
The Jury Prize went to "American Honey" by British director Andrea Arnold, while Olivier Assays, director of "Personal Shopper" and Cristian Mungiu who made "Bacalaureat" (Graduation) tied for Best Director.
Jaclyn Jose won Best Actress for her role in "Ma' Rosa", a brutal dive into the Manilla underworld directed by Brillante Mendoza.
Other big name directors Jim Jarmusch ("Paterson"), Paul Verhoeven ("Elle"), Pedro Almodovar ("Julieta"), Bruno Dumont ("Ma Loute"), the Dardenne brothers ("The Unknown Girl"} and Nicolas Winding Refn ("The Neon Demon") left the Croisette empty handed.
The biggest surprise, however, was that a German comedy drama "Toni Erdmann" directed by Maren Ade, did not win anything even though it was highly acclaimed by the critics and the general audience.
The jury was presided over by Australian director George Miller.
Jean-Pierre Leaud, one of the most famous faces of the French New Wave, received the "Palme d'Or d'Honneur", a lifetime achievement award.
Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Jane Merriman