France gave Sidney Poitier its highest arts honor Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival, where the culture minister praised the Oscar winner for tearing down barriers for black actors in Hollywood. Poitier, 79, was named a commander in France's order of arts and letters. In 1964, he became the first black performer in a leading role to win an Academy Award, for "Lilies of the Field." "You are the champion of equality between men," culture minister Renaud Donnedieu de Vabres said. AP reports.