DEAUVILLE, France / Calvados - Kelly Reichardt's drama "Night Moves" about three environmentalists who plot to blow up a dam won the top prize on Saturday at France's Deauville Film Festival, which celebrates American movies.
The drama, starring Dakota Fanning, Jesse Eisenberg and Peter Sarsgaard, is set in alternative farming communities in Oregon, with the trio's plan to blow up a hydroelectric dam yielding unexpected consequences.
Critics have hailed Reichardt's latest work and latest collaboration with co-writer Jon Raymond for exploring the tension between idealism and activism and the difficulties that come in negotiating between the two.
"It's a film that's masterful from beginning to end, that poses a topical problem," said Loui Doillon, a member of the jury headed by French actor Vincent Lindon. "What is this going to accomplish? Can we really change things?"
Reichardt, whose earlier works with Raymond have made her one of the most critically acclaimed independent filmmakers in the United States, was not at the ceremony, en route to the Toronto Film Festival, where the film is due to have its north American premiere on Sunday.
Deauville's jury prize went to Jeffrey C. Chandor's "All is Lost" starring Robert Redford and to Sam Fleischner's "Stand Clear of the Closing Doors".
In "All is Lost", Redford plays a sailor who finds himself staring his mortality in the face in the middle of the Indian Ocean after his boat collides with a shipping container.
"Stand Clear of the Closing Doors" meanwhile tells the story of an autistic Mexican teenager who runs away into the New York City's subway and his mother's frantic search for him over 11 days as Hurricane Sandy closes in on the city.
Ryan Coogler's "Fruitvale Station" received the public prize. The film follows Oscar Grant III as the 22-year-old black man goes about his day on December 31, 2008, which ends with him being shot to death by police at Fruitvale train station in Oakland, California, sparking protests.
This year's 39th Deauville festival featured stars like John Travolta, who promoted the "Killing Season" action flick which also stars Robert DeNiro, and Cate Blanchett, who promoted "Blue Jasmine", Woody Allen's latest work that tells the story of a fallen New York socialite for which the Academy Award-winning actress has been getting rave reviews.
Michael Douglas promoted "Behind the Candelabra", a biopic about Liberace also starring Matt Damon. Douglas returned to Deauville -- the place where he first met his future wife Catherine Zeta-Jones in 1998 -- just days after announcing that the power couple were taking a break from their 13-year marriage.
Nicolas Cage, Jamie Foxx and Forest Whitaker also attended the festival, in which 14 films vied for the Grand Prize.