October 28, 2009 / 10:42 PM / 9 years ago

French prison drama wins London festival award

LONDON (Reuters) - French prison drama “A Prophet” won the inaugural best picture award at the London film festival Wednesday, going one better than in Cannes where it was runner-up to Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon.”

Director Jacques Audiard reacts after receiving his Grand Prix award for the film "Un Prophete" during the award ceremony of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival May 24, 2009. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

Jacques Audiard directed the gritty thriller about Malik, a young man who is sentenced to six years in prison and must use his ingenuity to survive a dangerous standoff between gangs.

“More exciting than ‘Mesrine’, more enthralling than ‘Public Enemies’, this is undoubtedly the crime drama of the year,” the film festival said in its website description of the movie.

Another inaugural award this year, best British newcomer, went to Jack Thorne who wrote the screenplay for “The Scouting Book For Boys,” a story exploring the anxieties of being a teen-ager and set during a hazy British summer.

The longstanding Sutherland Trophy for a debut feature went to Israeli Yaron Shani and Palestinian Scandar Copti and their movie “Ajami,” a crime drama set on the streets of a tough Jaffa neighborhood rife with ethnic tension.

The Grierson Award, honoring documentaries, was won by Israeli film maker Yoav Shamir’s “Defamation,” which tackles anti-Semitism.

Two British Film Institute Fellowships were also handed out at an awards ceremony in London.

One went to British actor John Hurt, best known for his roles in “The Elephant Man,” for which he was nominated for an Oscar, and “1984,” based on the George Orwell novel.

“For me, the BFI is the heart of British cinema,” the 69-year-old said in a statement. “I consider it the highest honor possible to be awarded a Fellowship.”

The second fellowship was awarded to Malian director Souleymane Cisse, whose latest picture “Tell Me Who You Are” was included in this year’s festival lineup and explores issues of polygamy and sexual double standards in modern-day Bamako.

The awards dinner comes on the eve of the final day of this year’s festival, which has lasted 16 days and showcased around 200 feature films.

The annual event is attempting to compete with major international festivals like Toronto, Venice and Cannes, although the majority of the movies included in its program have already been shown at rival events.

Reporting by Mike Collett-White; editing by Michael Roddy

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