So it wasn’t Southland Tales after all… But the top-prize winner at the 59th Cannes Film Festival was a major surprise, with Brit director Ken Loach’s Irish Civil War drama The Wind That Shakes The Barley crashing in out of nowhere to beat all 19 other In Competition movies. Nobody, but nobody, saw it coming – certainly not Pedro Almodovar, whose comedy drama Volver had been considered a virtual cert throughout most of the festival, with Alejandro González Iñárritu's powerful story-splitter Babel seen as its only rival. But Wong Kar Wai’s jury delivered a unanimous verdict in favour of Loach’s film, praising its “hope, compassion and solidarity".
"We live in extraordinary times,” said Loach as he accepted the award. “And that has made people political in a way they maybe weren't in the previous four, five, six years. The wars that we have seen, the occupations that we see throughout the world - people finally cannot turn away from that. It's very exciting to be able to deal with this in films, and not just be a complement to the popcorn."
"It was one of five films about war and it was a fantastic education about the Irish problem," explains jury member Helena Bonham Carter. "There was a tremendous humanity. I can't explain our mass reaction but we were all profoundly moved."
Almodovar’s Volver scored Best Actress (for the entire ensemble!) and Best Screenplay, while Iñárritu won Best Director. A further Brit triumph, meanwhile, arrived in the shape of bracing thriller Red Road, which picked up The Jury Prize.