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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Belgians Take Cannes' Top Prize

CANNES, France -- "The Child," a Belgian film directed by Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, won the Palme d'Or as best film at the 58th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night.

The film, which follows a young petty thief as he struggles with the moral dilemmas of fatherhood, was inspired by Dostoyevsky's "Crime and Punishment" and influenced by the classic French film "Pickpocket," by Robert Bresson.

This is the second time the Dardenne brothers have won the festival's top prize; "Rosetta," their harsh look at work and unemployment in Belgium, took the award in 1999.

Paternity was a theme of more than one of this year's winning films. The jury, which included the Nobel Prize-winning writer Toni Morrison and the actors Javier Bardem and Salma Hayek, gave its Grand Prix, the festival's second-highest award, to Jim Jarmusch for "Broken Flowers," a comically poignant portrait of a middle-aged Lothario (Bill Murray) searching for a son he did not know he had.

Jarmusch, in his acceptance speech, called the jury "strange" and acknowledged a number of other directors in the competition, including Gus Van Sant, Atom Egoyan and Hou Hsiao-hsien, whom Jarmusch called his teacher.

The Jury Prize, a kind of honorable mention, was given to "Shanghai Dreams," Wang Xiaoshuai's tale of proletarian unhappiness in provincial China in the early 1980s.

The prize for best male performance went to Tommy Lee Jones for "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada," which he also directed. That film earned Guillermo Arriaga the screenwriting award. "The Three Burials" is about a modern Texas cowboy on a mission to bury and avenge his murdered friend, an undocumented immigrant from Mexico.

America was clearly on the minds of many filmmakers in the competition, including the Danish director Lars von Trier, who has never set foot on American soil, and the German director Wim Wenders, who has lived in the United States for many years. Neither von Trier's entry, "Manderlay," nor Wenders's "Don't Come Knocking" won any prizes, though both directors have won Palmes in the past.

The jury selected Hanna Laslo as the festival's best actress for her role in the Israeli director Amos Gitai's "Free Zone," which also stars Natalie Portman. Laslo, who plays a brusque Israeli taxi driver in the film, shared her prize with her mother, a Holocaust survivor, and with the victims from "both sides" in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"Free Zone" was one of many films in the festival that engaged contemporary issues directly rather than through allegory. Similarly, Jones's film, in spite of poetic and symbolic flourishes, concerns itself with problems on the U.S.-Mexico border. And "The Child," despite its literary pedigree, is grounded in the brutal conditions of poor and disenfranchised citizens of modern Europe.

Contemporary European social issues were as much a theme at Cannes this year as American policy and politics. The Director's Prize went to the Austrian director Michael Haneke for "Hidden," which touches on France's long, painful involvement in Algeria. The film was a critical favorite.