Loach victorious in a divided Cannes

British film-maker receives Palme d’Or.

by Richard Mowe

Ken Loach says he is alarmed that things have changed so little since Cathy Come Home
Ken Loach says he is alarmed that things have changed so little since Cathy Come Home Photo: Richard Mowe

One of the most divisive Cannes Film Festivals in recent memory found several films polarising critical and public opinion, but one that was universally applauded has won the Palme d’Or at tonight’s closing ceremony (22 May) - veteran British film-maker Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake.

“Cannes is very important for the future of cinema. Stay strong please,” said Loach who received the award from Mel Gibson. “To receive this in this situation is strange for us, because we have to remember the people who inspired us to make the film. Cinema combines the world of imagination and the world we live in and the world we live in is at a dangerous point at the moment. Millions of people are in serious hardship. Cinema has many traditions and one is to be of a dissent and represent the people who are struggling. The far right are set to take advantage, and some of us remember what that is like. Remember that another world is possible and necessary.”

The film follows two people caught in an uncaring welfare system. Loach previously won the Palme d'Or for The Wind That Shakes The Barley.

Three films which divided opinion won awards: Olivier Assayas’ spooky Personal Shopper (shared best director with Cristian Mungiu for Graduation), Xavier Dolan’s full velocity family exposé It’s Only The End Of The World (Grand Prix) and Andrea Arnold’s rambling road trip American Honey (Jury Prize). They all attracted their share of boos although some had their defenders.

Best Actor gong went to Shah Hosseini for The Salesman (Forushande) by A Separation director Asghar Farhadi in which he plays a teacher in Tehran and provides a spin on Arthur Miller’s play Death Of A Salesman. Best Actress was awarded to Jaclyn Jose for the title role of Ma’Rosa by Filipino director Brilliante Mendoza about drug dealers operating out of a small convenience store in Manila. The Salesman also won a best screenplay accolade for Farhadi.

The shared best director for Mungiu means he keeps a Cannes winning streak - he won the Palme d'Or for 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days in 2007. His moving portrait of systematic Romanian corruption in his new film surrounds the sexual assault of a promising student.

Dolan whose film pleased only a few of the critical fraternity gave an emotional acceptance speech. “The more I grow up the more I realise how difficult it is to be understood - even by yourself.” Dolan's film, starring Marion Cotillard, Lea Seydoux and Vincent Cassel, deals with a young man who returns home to tell his family he's dying.

The Camera d’Or, which honours the best first feature film across all the sections in the Festival, was awarded to Divines, a film by Houda Benyamina that premiered in Directors’ Fortnight.

Timecode, directed by Juanjo Gimenez, won the short film award while the short film The Girl Who Danced with the Devil, directed by Joao Paulo Miranda Maria, received a special distinction.

One of the gripes in this year’s 69th edition has been the tendency of some directors to let it flow - although much admired, Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann was deemed to be too protracted at 162 minutes, Rumanian director Cristi Puiu’s Sieranevada ran for 173 minutes, Arnold’s American Honey ran on for 162 minutes while Nicolas Winding Refn’s The Neon Demon was only 117 but seemed much longer. The Death of Louis XIV (La Mort de Louis XIV) by Catalan director Albert Serra with Jean-Pierre Léaud as the bedridden Sun King dying very slowly in 150 minutes. Léaud received an honorary Palme d’Or from director Arnaud Desplechin. Léaud said: “Léaud: “I was born in Cannes in 1959 when François Truffaut presented his first film The 400 Blows. I could have hardly imagined then that I would be back at Cannes this year with Albert Serra’s The Death of Louis X1V and to receive this honour.”

Cannes has had on show some fine work from established film-makers, such as Pedro Almodóvar’s mother-daughter melodrama Julieta and the austere and hypnotic The Unknown Girl, from Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, but they left Cannes empty handed.

21 films competed in the main competition, which has been screening the films over the past week and a half.

The jury included president George Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Mads Mikkelsen, Vanessa Paradis and Donald Sutherland.

Those awards in full:-

  • Camera d’Or - Houda Benyamina, Divines
  • Best Director - tie: Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper, and Cristian Mungiu, Graduation
  • Best Actress - Jaclyn Jose, Ma ‘Rosa
  • Best Actor - Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman
  • Short film - Timecode, Juanjo Jimenez
  • Honorary Palme d’Or - Jean-Pierre Léaud

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