Movie The Tree of Life scooped the top Palme d’Or award at Cannes Film Festival on Sunday night.

The movie’s writer-director Terrence Malick wasn’t present to accept the award, but producer William Pohlad accept it on Malick’s behalf with producer Dede Gardner.

Pohlad said: “He remains infamously and notoriously shy and humble, but he is very happy to get this.”

The movie, which stars Brad Pitt, Sean Penn and Jessica Chastain, and centres around a family with three boys in the 1950s, opens on Friday in the United States.

Kirsten Dunst won the best actress award for Lars von Trier’s Melancholia, in which she plays a bride whose wedding is overshadowed by the impending end of the world.

She thanked the festival “for allowing the film to stay in competition” as well as the director “for allowing me to be so brave and so free.”

Denmark’s Nicolas Winding Refn won the best director award for Drive which stars Ryan Gosling and Carey Mulligan.

Refn thanked his mum “who my whole life said I was a genius”.

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The grand jury prize was awarded to both The Kid With A Bike and Once Upon A Time in Anatolia.