Romanian director Cristian Mungiu won the Cannes Film Festival's top prize Sunday with a small movie about two student friends sharing the drama of a back-alley abortion.
"4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days," a low-budget film about a Bucharest college student who goes through horror to ensure that her friend can have an illegal abortion, beat 21 other movies to snatch the top prize, the Palme d'Or.
The Romanian triumph at Cannes spotlights Romania's fledging film industry as the rising star in European cinema.
The jury for Un Certain Regard, a secondary contest at the festival, also gave its highest honor to "California Dreaming," the first feature by Romanian director Cristian Nemescu set in Romania during the Kosovo war of 1999.
"I hope this Palme d'Or will be good news to small film-makers from small countries," said 39-year-old Mungiu as he picked up the golden trophy from actress Jane Fonda.
"It seems, finally, that you don't need big budgets and big stars to make a story everyone will listen to," said Mungiu, the first Romanian to win Cannes' top prize.
Mungiu's low-budget film was produced for less than 808,000 U.S. dollars.
The best actor award went to Russia's Konstantin Lavronenko, who played a troubled husband in "The Banishment," a drama about a couple whose marriage disintegrates during a stay in the countryside.
The prize for best actress was awarded to South Korea's Jeon Do-yeon, who played a widow struggling to cope with her husband's death in "Secret Sunshine."
Best director was Julian Schnabel for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly," based on the memoirs of French magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who was paralyzed after a stroke yet managed to write again by painstakingly blinking his eyelid.
The nine-member jury also awarded the Grand Prix runner-up prize to "The Mourning Forest," a lyrical Japanese movie about mourning and grief directed by Naomi Kawase.
German-Turkish director and writer Fatih Akin's "The Edge of Heaven," a cross-border story of love and reconciliation. won the prize for best screenplay.
The Camera d'Or for first film went to Israeli-French production "Jellyfish."