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'The Tree of Life' garners top prize at 2011 Cannes film festival

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "The Tree of Life," starring Brad Pitt and directed by Terrence Malick, wins the Palme d'Or
  • Kirsten Dunst is named best actress, while Jean Dujardin wins for best actor
  • The Cannes festival is held annually on the French Riviera

(CNN) -- "The Tree of Life," an American film helmed by director Terrence Malick and starring Brad Pitt, took home the top prize Sunday at the Cannes film festival.

Other big winners at the decades-old event, held annually on the French Riviera, included Kirsten Dunst as best actress at the competition for her role as one of two sisters battling depression ahead of the world's end in "Melancholia," and Jean Dujardin as best actor for his portrayal of silent movie star George Valentin in the French film "The Artist."

Nicolas Winding Refn, from Denmark, was named best director after overseeing "The Drive," about the life of a Hollywood stunt driver played by Ryan Gosling. The best screenplay award went to Joseph Cedar, an Israeli who penned the script for the father-son focused drama "Hearat Shulayim."

"Bir Zamanlar Anadolu'da" -- in English, "Once Upon a Time in Anatolia," a movie shot in Turkey and Bosnia-Herzegovina -- and "Le Gamin au Velo" -- or "The Kid with the Bike," which has Belgian, French and Italian roots -- earned the "Grand Prix Ex-aequo." That is the second most prestigious overall honor at Cannes, second to the Palme d'Or.

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That prize went to "The Tree of Life," which tells the story of a Midwestern family in the 1950s. Pitt plays the authoritative father raising three kids along with his wife, played by Jessica Chastain.

Although Pitt, a father of six, joked last week that his parenting style isn't quite the same as the character he plays in Malick's film, the story does raise a lot of the same questions about spirituality he had as a child.

"Many people find religion to be very inspiring," he told reporters. "Myself, I found it very stifling."

"Cross" -- a film inspired by Ukrainian director Maryna Vroda's experience running cross-country as a girl -- garnered the Palm D'Or in the short-film category.

"Badpakje 46," or "Swimsuit 46," which revolves around a 12-year-old swimmer, won the jury prize in the short-film category. For full-length features, the jury prize went to "Polisse," a movie about members of a French police unit.

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