CANNES, France (Reuters) - A hard-hitting Romanian film set towards the end of the communist era won the Cannes Film Festival's top honor on Sunday.
"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," directed by Cristian Mungiu, was one of the critics' favorites to win the Palme d'Or ahead of the glittering red-carpet ceremony that ended the 12-day movie marathon on the French Riviera.
The film tells the story of Gabita, a young student who undergoes a risky illegal abortion, and the terrible price she and her friend Otilia must pay.
Critics praised the picture for its portrayal of a gray and brutal world as well as for the humanity shown in Otilia's sacrifice for her friend.
"This kind of attention that we got here all around the festival, this story in which we believe so much, is going to reach lots of people now," Mungiu told a packed Grand Theatre Lumiere, where the prizes were awarded.
"I also hope that this award that I am getting tonight is going to be good news for small film makers from small countries because it looks like you don't necessarily need a big budget and a lot of stars."
"4 Months" was one of 22 films in competition.
The Grand Prix runner-up prize went to "The Mourning Forest," a lyrical Japanese movie about mourning and grief directed by Naomi Kawase.
Best director was Julian Schnabel for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," based on the true story of French journalist Jean-Dominique Bauby, who suffered a stroke and was paralyzed yet managed to write a book using one eyelid to communicate.
Best screenplay was awarded to German-Turkish director and writer Fatih Akin for "The Edge of Heaven," a cross-border story of love and reconciliation.
"I have one message for Turkey, because they vote on July 22," he said, referring to a general election. "All is one, united we stand, divided we fall.
Best actor was Konstantin Lavronenko, who played the male lead in Russian film maker Andrei Zvyagintsev' s "The Banishment."
Best actress was Jeon Do-yeon for South Korean competition entry "Secret Sunshine."