CANNES, France — This year's Cannes Film Festival, generally reviewed as lackluster, came to life in its closing hours with the award of its top prize, the Golden Palm, to the Yugoslav film "When Father Was Away on Business."
The verdict was so unexpected that the 30-year-old director, Emir Kusturica, was not present to receive the award from Hollywood star James Stewart at the ceremony ending the 12-day festival.
It was the first time Yugoslavia had won the award in the festival's 38-year history.
Unlike other years, Kusturica's award by the 10-member jury chaired by Oscar-winning director Milos Forman prompted no catcalls from the 3,000 people at the festival finale.
Kusturica's film, set 15 years after the end of World War II as Yugoslavia struggles to break with the Soviet Union and its Stalinist ideology, is a social satire seen through the eyes of a 6-year-old child. The boy recounts the misadventures of his father, a humdrum government official sent to a work camp by mistake on the testimony of a girl who had had enough of his attentions.