Xavier Beauvois wins Cannes grand prix with Algeria monk drama
French film-maker Xavier Beauvois' "Of Gods and Men" scooped the runner-up grand prix award at Cannes Sunday with a drama about Catholic monks caught up in Algeria's Islamist violence.
"Of Gods and Men" is the true 1990s story of a monastery in Algeria which after years of caring for local Muslims is threatened by war between militants and the army.
The movie was acclaimed by critics at Cannes and had audiences in tears.
It is based on the beheading of seven monks in Tibiherine, northern Algeria, in 1996, during Algeria's eight-year civil war between government forces and Islamists.
The film also touches on the sensitive issue of France's history in north Africa, with one Algerian character explicitly blaming colonialists for the social problems which he says gave rise to Islamic extremism in the country.
The drama in "Of Gods And Men" centres on the monks' painful moral choice of whether to flee as danger threatens, or stay to support the local people.
"It is rare these days in our selfish society that there are people who care for others, who pay attention to the religion of others," Beauvois told a news conference.
Speaking to AFP, he also hailed the "faith and rigour" of the real-life monks, played in the film by French actors including top names Lambert Wilson and Michael Lonsdale.
"My work with my actors was to make a bunch of people as wonderful as them," he added. "If society had just five percent of people like them, things would be better."
© 2010 AFP