South Korean actress Jeon Do-yeon
won the Best Actress Award at the Cannes Film Festival in France on Sunday, becoming the second from her country to win top acting award at a major international competition.
Jeon, 34, was considered a favorite from early on, gaining acclaim for her performance in "Secret Sunshine"
, called "Milyang" in Korean. She plays a mother who trying to forgive a murderer who kills her son.
, 53, former South Korean culture minister, directed the film, his first piece since returning to the movie industry and the fourth in his directing career. Another Korean actress Moon So-ri
won the Marcello Mastroianni Award as best newcomer at the 2002 Venice Film Festival for her role in "Oasis뮃 `directed by Lee, who also won the director award. He served as the culture minister from February 27, 2003 till June 30, 2004.
This is the first time that a Korean actress has ever grabbed the best award in one of the three major international film festivals since Kang Soo-yeon
won the Best Actress Award for her role in "The Surrogate Woman"
at the Venice Film Festival in 1987. "The Surrogate Woman"
, called "Ssibaji" in Korean was produced by veteran director Im Kwon-taek
Cannes, Venice and Berlin are regarded as world's leading film festivals.
In the film, "Secret Sunshine"
, Jeon is quite remarkable as the stricken mother who turns to happy-clappy Protestantism in her misery, becomes deeply religious and decides to visit the now-imprisoned murderer to forgive him.
The killer thanks her but says he too has become close to God, who has already forgiven him. This sends the mother into a deep depression akin almost to madness.
Jeon's panic when her little boy is kidnapped, her disbelief that he can have been mercilessly killed and her fury when her forgiveness seems futile are portrayed with a simple and devastating power. And she is well supported by Song Kang-ho
, South Korea's leading star, as the mild-mannered man who falls for her and tries to help.
The film has several different levels and is an almost Bressonian study in human suffering and its consequences. Not many others in the competition can measure up to it.
At this Cannes festival, best actor was Konstantin Lavronenko, who played the male lead in Russian film maker Andrei Zvyagintsev's "The Banishment", another gloomy film that features an abortion.
Cristian Mungiu's "4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days", a grim and gritty tale about a young woman seeking an illegal abortion in the final days of Romania's Communist dictatorship, won the Palme d'Or prize for best picture.
The award makes it a double triumph in Cannes for Romania. Romanian director Cristian Nemescu, who was killed in an automobile accident in August 2006, was posthumously awarded the top prize in the Une Certain Regard section of the festival for his film "California Dreamin"'.
At the post awards press conference, winning director Mungiu said that the Palme d'Or was "so much more important than the Oscars. It says we are real filmmakers".
"Mogari no Mori", or "The Mourning Forest", directed by Naomi Kawase
of Japan, won the runner-up Grand Prix award. This poignant film tells the story of a careworker and a retirement home resident who help each other come to terms with past grief after becoming stranded in a remote forest.