CANNES, France: Lebanese director Nadine Labaki won the Cannes jury prize on Saturday for “Capernaum” — her devastating portrayal of poverty in Beirut.
The film, set among the city’s poor, left audiences in tears with a breathtaking performance by Zain Al-Rafeea, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee boy.
Labaki had been tipped to become only the second woman to win the Palme d’Or, but the jury, led by Cate Blanchett, awarded that honor to “Shoplifters,” directed by Japanese filmmaker Hizokazu Kore-eda.
The winners were announced during the Cannes closing ceremony after one of the strongest festivals for Arab films in decades.
Labaki took six months to make “Capernaum,” which relied on amateur actors. Zain plays a boy of the same name who runs away from home after his desperate mother and father sell his 11-year-old sister into marriage for a few chickens.
He then takes his parents to court for having brought him into the world.
Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman,” the highest-profile American film in competition at Cannes, was awarded the grand prize. The film ignited the French Riviera festival with its true tale of a black police detective who infiltrated the Ku Klux Klan.
Palme d’Or winner “Shoplifters” is about a small-time thief who takes a young girl home to his family after seeing scars from abuse. The family decide to keep the girl and raise her as their own.