Joy Division biopic wins at Cannes

A small-budget British film about Joy Division star Ian Curtis has won a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

A small-budget British film about Joy Division star Ian Curtis has won a top prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

'Control', which was made for just £3m (€4.42) and stars an unknown former retail warehouse worker in his first lead role, has been named Best European Film at the festival.

The title - awarded by the Europa Cinemas Label, a network of film distributors - will boost Control's prospects by funding its release across European cinemas.

The jury said Sam Riley, 27, who plays Curtis, was "excellent" in the role, along with the rest of the cast.

'Control' follows Curtis's tragic last years before he killed himself at the age of 23 on May 18 1980 on the eve of the band's first US tour.

Dutch director Anton Corbijn had to pour his own cash into the film, which also stars Samantha Morton as Curtis's wife, to ensure its survival.

Corbijn plucked Riley from obscurity to play the iconic singer, who suffered from epileptic fits and could not handle the band's success as his personal life unravelled following an affair.

Riley was folding shirts in a Leeds warehouse when he auditioned.

New Order, the band formed by the surviving members of Joy Division, and Curtis's widow, collaborated on the project.

Shot in black and white, the film has a soundtrack of songs from New Order, David Bowie, the Sex Pistols, the Velvet Underground and Iggy Pop.

Control was shown for the first time last week when it opened the Directors' Fortnight section of films in Cannes to rave reviews.

It is the first feature film for Riley and the director, who is better known as a photographer.

Riley, who enjoyed bit parts in the film '24 Hour Party People' and TV's 'Law and Order' before landing the role of Curtis, actually sings in the role.

His former band, rock group 10,000 Things, spent four years with the Polydor record label but, he admits, never "troubled the charts".

Control received £250,000 (€368,956) of European Union cash from a group based in the East Midlands.

As a result, the movie - one of the few British titles being shown at the Film Festival - had to be shot in Nottingham instead of Macclesfield where the story is set.

The last UK movie to win Best European Film was 'The Mother' in 2003, which was written by Hanif Kureishi and starred Daniel Craig.

Today's Europa Cinemas Label jury said: "This is a very impressive and assured debut from a renowned photographer, but he never allows the look of the film, beautiful though it is, to detract from the powerful story and character development.

"The performances are all excellent, not just the leading characters. We feel that this is a film that will strike a real chord with audiences around Europe, and not just with music lovers."

Corbijn and Riley will not be able to attend the prize-giving ceremony taking place in Cannes because they are out of the country.

A spokesman for the film said they could not be contacted.

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