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Cannes: Iceland’s ‘Rams’ Wins Un Certain Regard Award

Corneliu Porumboiu, Kiyoshi Kurosawa among other auteurs honored by Isabella Rossellini's jury

CANNES — Icelandic comedy “Rams” emerged the winner of the Un Certain Regard section at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, with former docmaker Grimur Hakonarson accepting the top prize from jury president Isabella Rossellini.

The film, about estranged sheep-farmer brothers reconciled when their familial flock is endangered, was warmly received at the festival, with Variety critic Alissa Simon commending it for its “wonderfully wry, charmingly understated comic moments.” New Europe Film Sales is handling sales for the pic; deals for Taiwan, France and other European territories have already been secured.

“Rams” is the second creature-themed feature to take the prize in as many years: Hungarian canine thriller “White God” was last year’s winner.

The runner-up jury prize was presented to Croatia’s “The High Sun,” an era-spanning triptych of love stories from writer-director Dalibor Matanic, described by Variety‘s Jay Weissberg as the helmer’s strongest work to date.

Two former jury prize victors, meanwhile, were honored again tonight. Japan’s Kiyoshi Kurosawa, whose “Tokyo Sonata” won in 2008, received the best director award for “Journey to the Shore,” his low-key fusion of ghost story and human drama. Romanian auteur Corneliu Porumboiu — awarded in 2009 for “Police, Adjective” — was presented with a special Prix “Un Certain Talent” for the “masterful narration” of “The Treasure.”

Two first-time filmmakers were jointly rewarded with a Special Prize for Promising Futures, for tackling themes relating to personal liberties: Iran’s Ida Panahandeh for “Nahid” and India’s Neeraj Ghaywan for “Masaan.” In a change from recent years, no acting prizes were presented by Rossellini’s jury.

Among those left empty-handed was Thai auteur Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the 2010 Palme d’Or winner whose new film “Cemetery of Splendor” was rapturously received by critics — with many questioning why it wasn’t in the main competition lineup.

Nineteen films were screened in the Un Certain Regard section, which was opened by “An,” the latest feature from Japan’s Naomi Kawase — another director hitherto accustomed to a competition slot. Unusually, no U.S. productions were included in this year’s selection, which otherwise spanned the globe from Ethiopia to the Philippines.

Rossellini — daughter of the late Ingrid Bergman, the official face of the festival’s 2015 edition — praised the diversity of the lineup, quipping, “It was like taking a flight over the planet and seeing all [its] emotions — I think we are the envy of every anthropologist.”

Her fellow jurors included actor Tahar Rahim (star of this year’s Critics’ Week opener “The Anarchists”), writer-director Panos H. Koutras (whose gay-themed comedy “Xenia” competed in Un Certain Regard last year) and two Middle Eastern female filmmakers: Nadine Labaki (“Where Do We Go Now?”) and Haifaa al-Mansour, whose 2012 debut “Wadjda” was the first female-directed feature to emerge from Saudi Arabia.

The 68th Cannes Film Festival draws to a close tomorrow with the presentation of the eagerly awaited Competition awards, as determined by Joel and Ethan Coen’s jury.

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