By Alexandria Sage
CANNES France (Reuters) - A gentle Labrador mix named Body won the "Palm Dog" award on the sidelines of the Cannes Film Festival on Friday, a pat on the head from canine-lovers and film critics for the outstanding movie performance by a pooch.
Body starred in "Feher Isten" (White God) by Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo, which features more than 250 dogs.
The lead character is "Hagen" - a role shared by Body and a second hound named Luc - who is abandoned by his family and picked up by a man who trains him to be fighting dog.
At the film's festival premiere earlier in the festival, Body attended a photocall, walked the red carpet and was invited onstage - wearing a bowtie.
The Palm Dog award is a play on the Palme d'Or, the Cannes festival's top prize.
"What an honor, what a historical hound!" said Palm Dog organizer Toby Rose, who called the film a cross between "Inglorious Barksterds" and "Ben Fur."
It had been a golden year for dogs on film, Rose said.
"This Cannes has seen a raging outbreak of dog-risma," Rose said, citing Jean-Luc Godard's real-life dog, Roxy Mieville, who stars in his film "Adieu au Langage" (Goodbye to Language) and Yves Saint Laurent's French Bulldog Moujik in "Saint Laurent" by director Bertrand Bonello.
The supporting role of Moujik takes a tragic turn as the dog consumes the party drugs intended for his master and dies.
In another canine cameo, a fuzzy English sheepdog appears in David Cronenberg's critique of Hollywood, "Maps to the Stars" and is accidentally shot by a teenage movie star.
"It was the biggest and best range of dog performances I think I've ever known," Rose told Reuters TV.
But in terms of the number of canines on screen at any one time, "White God" takes the biscuit.
In its opening scene, a pack of 250 barking dogs, none of them created by computer simulation, chase after the protagonist, barking and snarling.
Most of the dogs used in the film were rescued in real life from an animal shelter, then adopted by cast members and friends after the shoot.
Although Body was not on hand to accept the award, director Mundruczo accepted the stuffed bone prize on his behalf, saying it was an "uplifting" experience working with his canine stars.
"They live in Los Angeles," he said of Body and Luc, promising to send the bone to their trainer.
(Additional reporting by Rollo Ross; Editing by Angus MacSwan)