French film on Algeria monks wins Cannes side-prize

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A French film about Catholic monks threatened by Islamist militants in Algeria on Saturday won the Cannes festival's ecumenical jury prize for works fostering religious understanding.

"Of Gods and Men" by Xavier Beauvois tells the tale of a Cistercian monastery caught up in Algeria's civil war in the 1990s, in the crossfire of Algerian government forces and Islamist militants.

Quiet scenes of the monks' daily life are underpinned by a tense plot centring on their painful moral dilemma of whether to flee or stay to support the local people whom they have spent years caring for.

"The deep humanity of the monks, their respect for Islam and their generosity towards their village neighbours make the reason for our choice," the ecumenical jury, partners to the official festival, said in a statement.

"This movie of great artistic value benefits from a remarkable group of actors and follows the daily rhythm of work and liturgy," the statement by the six-member international jury added.

The cast included the prominent French actors Lambert Wilson and Michael Lambert.

The jury also commended two of the other films in competition for the festival's main prize: "Poetry" by South Korean director Lee Chang-Dong and "Another Year" by Britain's Mike Leigh.

© 2010 AFP

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