French film Dheepan has become the unexpected winner of this year’s Palme D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Directed by Jacques Audiard, the film took home the festival’s highest honour at its closing ceremony on Sunday night.

jacques audiardDheepan director Jacques Audiard

Dheepan tells the story of a former Tamil Tiger fighter who pretends to be part of a family with two strangers to find a new life in a housing estate on the edge of Paris. Variety reported that when the film was announced as this year’s recipient, there was a mixture of boos and applause from the international press corps who were watching the ceremony at the Palais.

Accepting the award director Jacques Audiard said, "To receive a prize from the Coen brothers is something pretty exceptional. I'm very touched. I'm thinking of my father.” Audiard also jokingly thanked Michael Haneke, for not making a film this year as the director has beaten him for the award twice previously.

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Audiard was nominated for the Palme in 2009 for A Prophet and in 2012 for Rust and Bone, both films received a warmer reception during their Cannes premiere than Dheepan had this year.

Filmmakers Joel and Ethan Coen, the jury co-presidents, noted the panel’s “enthusiasm” for the film after the award was given out. “We all thought it was a beautiful movie,” Ethan Coen said. “This isn’t a jury of film critics. This is a jury of artists looking at the work,” added Joel Cohen.

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Also at the festival’s closing ceremony, Hungarian director Laszlo Nemes took home runner up prize, the Grand Prix for his feature film debut, Holocaust drama Son of Saul. While this year’s jury prize was awarded to The Lobster, a surreal romantic drama directed by Yorgos Lanthimos and starring Colin Farrell and Rachel Weisz.

Rooney Mara took home the best actress prize for her role in Todd Haynes drama, Carol, sharing the award with French actress Emmanuelle Bercot for My King. Vincent Lindon was named best actor for French drama The Measure Of A Man and the best director prize went to Hou Hsiao-hsien for The Assassin.