Thai film surprise winner in Cannes

Sun May 23, 2010 4:32pm EDT
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By Mike Collett-White and James Mackenzie

CANNES, France (Reuters) - A mystical Thai movie exploring reincarnation won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes film festival on Sunday, beating out pre-award favorites including Britain's Mike Leigh who left empty-handed.

"Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives" was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, who nearly did not make it to Cannes to present his film due to political unrest at home.

"I think Thailand needs some kind of hope in other ways because we ... are very depressed about the confrontation of different ideologies," he told reporters after receiving the Golden Palm for best picture at a glitzy closing ceremony.

Uncle Boonmee, eagerly anticipated by highbrow cinephiles, was shot in a flat, naturalistic style and featured conversations with hair-covered spirits and talking catfish.

U.S. filmmaker Tim Burton, head of the jury, described Uncle Boonmee as "a beautiful strange dream.

"The world is getting smaller and films get more Westernized or Hollywood-ized and this is a film for me that I felt I was watching from another country, from another perspective."

Weerasethakul, an Asian favorite in Cannes who won lesser awards with previous entries, beat frontrunner Leigh, whose critical hit "Another Year" was overlooked. Leigh won the Palme d'Or in 1996 with "Secrets and Lies."

"Of Gods and Men," French director Xavier Beauvois's meditative re-telling of the true story of seven monks murdered in Algeria during civil turmoil in the 1990s, took the Grand Prix runner-up award.   Continued...

<p>Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul (2nd R) and cast member Wallapa Mongkolprasert arrive for the screening of "Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat" (Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall his Past Lives) in competition at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival May 21, 2010. REUTERS/Yves Herman</p>