- Associated Press - Friday, May 23, 2014

CANNES, France (AP) - It could be called the “Nouvelle Wag.”

Cannes’ most bizarre but endearing film award, the Palm Dog, has gone to the 250 four-legged stars of a Hungarian horror-thriller about a canine apocalypse, “White God.”

Its director, Kornel Mundruczo, was all laughs and smiles Friday at the ceremony to collect his trophy, a large furry bone. But he said the dogs in the film were used to make a serious statement about the oppressed and marginalized.

“I always use dogs to symbolize minorities,” Mundruczo said. “I wanted to tell this tale as a metaphor about the European fears about dealing with minorities.”

The director is concerned by rise of nationalist parties across Europe. In his home country of Hungary, a far-right party is the third largest group in parliament.

The movie has bowled critics over, drawing comparisons to Hitchcock’s “The Birds” with its startling opening sequence.

Hagen, the movie’s doggy protagonist, is played by real-life twin Labradors Luke and Body. He is shunned and all his gentleness is bashed out of him, ending up toughened and unrecognizable.

Mundruczo said it took every directorial brain cell he had to get the unpredictable animals to light up the screen in the way he intended.

“Dogs cannot lie on camera, it’s very challenging,” he said.

All the dogs had to be socialized together for six months prior to shooting the film in order for them to be convincing in the pack scenes, he added.

“It certainly wasn’t easy, but it was an incredible experience,” he said.

“White God” is competing in the “Un Certain Regard” competition, whose winner is announced in ceremony Friday night.

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Thomas Adamson can be followed at https://Twitter.com/ThomasAdamsonAP

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