CANNES, France (Reuters)
Director Ken Loach's "The Wind That Shakes The Barley" , a moving drama about the Irish struggle for independence in 1920, won the "Palme d'Or" at the Cannes film festival on Sunday.
The Golden Palm, the highest cinema award outside the Oscars in the United States, went to one of Britain's most highly respected and socially active film makers, and was a fitting choice for a festival were political pictures stole much of the limelight.
The 69-year-old film maker told Reuters in an interview earlier in the festival that the Irish fight for independence against an empire imposing its will on a foreign people had resonances with the U.S. occupation of Iraq today.
The Grand Prix, or runner up prize, was awarded to "Flanders" directed by France's Bruno Dumont. The movie is an examination of war and its effect on those who fight and those left behind told through the story of the young and taciturn farmhand Demester, who is called up to fight a war in an unspecified country.
While Dumont does not define the cause of the conflict, brutal images of desert landscapes, troops under fire from Arab snipers and executions of soldiers caught by the enemy will be seen by audiences as a clear reference to Iraq and Afghanistan.
The ensemble female cast of Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" including Penelope Cruz and Carmen Maura, won the best actress prize.
The best actor category also went to a cast, in this case that of "Indigenes" screening as "Days of Glory" in English, about the role North African troops played in defending France during World War Two. The cast includes Jamel Debbouze, Samy Naceri and Sami Bouajila.
Almodovar won best screenplay for Volver, his bitter-sweet tale of abuse, abandonment and reconciliation which was the critics' favorite to take the Palme d'Or before the awards were announced.
Best director went to Mexico's Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for "Babel", a sweeping portrayal of barriers -- personal, cultural and national -- which was shot on three continents and stars Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett.
The Jury Prize went to Britain's Andrea Arnold, who was in Cannes with her first feature film "Red Road", about a woman whose job is to monitor the grim streets of Glasgow through security cameras that seem to be on every corner.