'Continental' takes top prize in Belgian fest


NAMUR, Belgium -- Quebec helmer Stephane LaFleur's "Continental, A Film Without Guns" on Friday took the Golden Bayard top prize at the International Festival of Francophone Film in Namur, the political capital of the French-speaking southern part of Belgium.

Lafleur's spooky mystery follows four seemingly unrelated characters living lives of gloomy frustration as they drift into absurd situations. Produced by Luc Dery and Kim McCraw for Montreal-based micro_scope, it won the prize for first Canadian feature at the Toronto Film Festival last month.

Guillaume and Stephane Malandrin's surrealist "Where is the Hand of the Headless Man?" won the prize for the best cinematography. Its star, Cecile de France -- who plays a competition diver who emerges from a coma -- claimed the best actress prize.

Samir Guesmi won the best actor prize for his role in Alain Gomis's "Andalucia," a stream of consciousness film that follows the dynamic but awkward young man through numerous jobs, daydreams and conversations about soccer legend Pele.

The best screenplay prize was awarded to Eric Guirado and Florence Vignon for Guirado's second feature, "The Grocer's Son." Sandrine Bonnaire's "Her Name Is Sabine," in which Bonnaire profiles her adult autistic sister, won the special jury prize.

The week-long Festival of Francophone Film, Belgium's biggest, is in its the 21st edition, and attracted some 33,000 people, showcasing 150 features, shorts and documentaries.

Among the nine world premieres were "Cowboy," directed by local filmmaker Benoit Mariage and starring Benoit Poelvoorde and Julie Depardieu, about a former left-wing militant who makes a living hosting a traffic safety television show.

Others premiere included Thomas Francois and Bernard Declercq's "Control X" and Dominique Standaert's "Lollypop Men."

The festival included films from across the world's French-speaking territories, including Switzerland, Quebec, Algeria and Lebanon. However, Belgian films dominated, with 68 on show -- 34 of which were directly funded by the cinema center of Belgium's French community.