CANNES, France: "Shoplifters", a heartwrenching tale by Japanese veteran director Hirokazu Kore-eda about a family of small-time crooks who take in a child they find on the street, won the Palme d'Or top prize at the Cannes film festival Saturday.
Accepting one of global cinema's most coveted honours from jury president Cate Blanchett, Kore-eda said movies made him hopeful for the state of the world.
"Maybe because of the cinema, the people who usually fight each other, the countries that are fighting each other, may be able to come together," he said.
Spike Lee won the runner-up Grand Prix for "BlacKkKlansman", a searing broadside against racism with the stranger-than-fiction true story of an African-American police officer who manages to infiltrate the highest levels of the Ku Klux Klan.
Lebanese actress-director Nadine Labaki, one of three female filmmakers among the 21 contenders, earned the third-place Jury Prize for "Capernaum" set among the poorest of the poor in Beirut and featuring a devastating performance by a 13-year-old Syrian refugee boy.
It was the first edition since the Harvey Weinstein sexual assault scandal rocked the film industry, sparking the #MeToo movement.
Presenting the best actress prize, Italian star Asia Argento, who has said she was raped by the Hollywood mogul at Cannes in 1997, told the ceremony he would never be welcome at the event again.
"This festival was his hunting ground," said Argento, who says she was 21 when Weinstein attacked her in his hotel room.
"He was seated among you... But things have changed. We are not going to allow you to get away it."
Kazakhstan's Samal Yeslyamova nabbed best actress for "Ayka" by director Sergey Dvortsevoy for her wrenching portrayal of a young jobless immigrant from post-Soviet Central Asia who abandons her baby in Moscow.
'Rare good news'
Polish Oscar winner Pawel Pawlikowski took the prize for best director for "Cold War", a tragic love story set against the backdrop of the Iron Curtain.
Pawlikowski, who won the foreign-language movie Oscar for "Ida" in 2015, caused a scandal at home when he told AFP at the festival that the film had been "blacklisted" by the nationalist government. Warsaw denied the claim.
He said his award was "a rare piece of good news" for his country.
Marcello Fonte of Italy clinched best actor for his much-loved performance as a soft-spoken pooch groomer who stands up to a local heavy in Matteo Garrone's "Dogman".
"Three Faces" by Iran's Jafar Pahahi, who was barred from attending the festival, shared the best screenplay prize with Italian director Alice Rohrwacher's "Happy as Lazzaro".
ERRATUM - Pour le film SE ROKH (3 VISAGES), le Prix du scénario ex-æquo a été remis à JAFAR PANAHI. / For the film SE ROKH (3 FACES), the Award for Best screenplay ex-æquo was given to JAFAR PANAHI.#Cannes2018 #Palmarès #Awards #Clôture pic.twitter.com/AwraOCkQbt— Festival de Cannes (@Festival_Cannes) May 19, 2018
The much-praised Belgian transgender drama "Girl" won the Camera d'Or prize for best first film. It had earlier scooped the Queer Palm prize for LGBT-themed cinema and the best actor award for Victor Polster in the Un Certain Regard sidebar section.
Barefoot on red carpet
Beyond the prize winners, the 71st Cannes festival may linger for its off-screen moments, Hollywood stars including Blanchett, Kristen Stewart, Helen Mirren and Salma Hayek and directors Ava DuVernay and Patty Jenkins joined a red-carpet protest to demand equal opportunity and a "safe workplace".
Two days later, festival organisers signed a pledge to encourage more diversity in its selection by 2020, saying they hoped it would set an industry standard.
Despite being one of the most sought-after tickets, the premiere of Danish bad boy Lars von Trier's "The House That Jack Built" saw audience members walk out in droves from what they called a misogynistic orgy of violence.
Both its female stars, Uma Thurman and Riley Keough, were conspicuously absent from the red carpet, where Stewart on another night staged a kind of protest of her own by slipping off her high heels and climbing the vaunted Cannes stairs barefoot.
The glamour-drenched festival spotlighted dissident directors this year, including Iran's Panahi and Kirill Serebrennikov of Russia, who were barred by their governments from attending.
Spike Lee's film, which several critics called a return to form for the "Do the Right Thing" director, explicitly links the 1970s tale and white nationalism in the Trump era.
He attacked the US president with an expletive-filled tirade at his Cannes press conference that quickly went viral on social media.
In 2017, the top prize went to Ruben Ostlund's "The Square," an art world send-up that went on to bag an Oscar nomination.