Shaking Sean Baker lifts the Palme d’Or

Sex work comedy Anora triumphs in Cannes with rewards for India, Iran and Mexican drug cartel musical

by Richard Mowe

Hollywood veteran George Lucas looks on benevolently as Sean Baker receives his Palme d’Or for Anora from Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury
Hollywood veteran George Lucas looks on benevolently as Sean Baker receives his Palme d’Or for Anora from Greta Gerwig’s Cannes jury Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

Visibly shaking in front of Greta Gerwig’s Cannes Film Festival jury, American director Sean Baker lifted his Palme d’Or for Anora from the hands of George Lucas and went down on his knees to kiss the ground in front of the Star Wars legend who had just received his own honorary Palme from fellow veteran Francis Ford Coppola in the closing ceremony of this year’s 77th edition.

Mohammad Rasoulof, special jury prize for The Seed Of The Sacred Fig: “My thoughts are with members of my team who are not here”.
Mohammad Rasoulof, special jury prize for The Seed Of The Sacred Fig: “My thoughts are with members of my team who are not here”. Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Baker who has had two previous films launch at the festival - The Florida Project and Red Rocket - has delivered a whirlwind romance between an exotic dancer played by Mikey Madison and the uber-rich son of a Russian oligarch (Mark Eydelshteyn).

The reviewers almost unanimously adored it with one critic hailing “Sean Baker’s funny sex-work comedy is a blast” while industry publication Screen described it as “a wildly entertaining, modern-day screwball comedy”.

The second top award - the Grand Prix - was awarded to the first Indian film in the official Competition for 30 years, All We Imagine As Light about the friendships between three Mumbai women from different backgrounds. Director Payal Kapadia said she had created the film “as a family”. And she urged the festival not to wait so long “before inviting another Indian film”. In reference to the labour dispute involving the festival’s army of freelance workers, mainly behind the scenes she said: “I support their movement for better conditions”.

The audience gave a standing ovation to Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof for The Seed Of The Sacred Fig who had fled his country only days before the Festival. Receiving a special jury prize, he said: “My thoughts are with all members of my team who are not here. Certain of my actors and technicians are under pressure from the secret service. So I am ambivalent this evening - grateful to be recognised but sad about the castrophy under which my people live. We have been taken hostage by this Islamic regime”.

Grand Prix winner All We Imagine As Light
Grand Prix winner All We Imagine As Light Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
Emilia Perez, long touted for prizes since its exhilarating debut at the festival, won the jury prize for French director Jacques Audiard as well as best actress prizes for ensemble cast headed by trans actor Karla Sofia Gascón, who dedicated the award too all trans people and their struggles - as well as the 200 or so crew who worked on the film which deals with a Mexican cartel boss who disappears in order to re-emerge as a woman.

Jesse Plemons who was unable to attend the ceremony in person, was named best actor for his performance in Yorgos Lanthimos’s Kinds Of Kindness.

Veteran Wim Wenders appeared on stage to present the best director to Portuguese film-maker Miguel Gomez for Grand Tour.

In a female-accented ceremony presided by Call My Agent’s Camille Cottin the jury who saw three films a day to reach their verdicts, bestowed the best screenplay prize on French director Coralie Fargeat for The Substance, which stars Demi Moore as a has-been Hollywood beauty and Margaret Qualley as her younger, more perfect doppel-ganger. Fargeat hoped the film would mark “a little step in changing the world” and the place of women in it. “The Revolution has not yet begun so let’s begin this revolution together,” she said to loud approval.

The Camera d’Or prize for the best first feature was awarded to Norwegian Halfdan Ullman Tondel’s Armand about a six-year-old who is accused of having sexually harassed his best friend. Tondel has a good pedigree being the grandson of Liv Ullmann and Ingmar Bergman. Special mention went to Directors’ Fortnight selection Mongrel, co-directed by Chiang Wei Liang and You Qiao Yin.

Best actress prizes for ensemble cast of Emilia Perez was headed by Karla Sofia Gascón
Best actress prizes for ensemble cast of Emilia Perez was headed by Karla Sofia Gascón Photo: Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival
In other prizes Fipresci (the organisation for international film journalists) has bestowed the top award on Mohammad Rasoulof’s The Seed Of The Sacred Fig which the citation notes is “a courageous story set in modern-day Iran that deals with the conflict between tradition and progress, depicted in a very powerful and imaginative way”.

The film is reported to have received a 12-minute standing ovation (a record for this year’s Festival) at its red carpet screening earlier in the week.

The Fipresci Award for a first or second feature in parallel sections Directors’ Fortnight and Critics’ Week went to Desert of Namibia by Yôko Yamanaka.

The Fipresci journalists also cited and rewarded The Story Of Souleymane (already the recipient of Un Certain Regard jury award) for being “a tight piece of fiction with a documentary feel”.

The sixth edition of the Citizenship Award given to one of the films in the official selection to praise its artistic qualities and values of humanism, secularism and universalism has been bestowed on Andrea Arnold’s Bird.

Arnold who was not in Cannes to receive the award sent message of thanks: “It is always my mission to get my characters seen so this award feels very special to me. On behalf of all the humans and beings in the film and all the humans and beings that contributed and worked so hard to make it, I would like to massively thank the Citizenship jury for this very important and beautiful prize!”

The full list of prizes in the Official Competition is as follows:

  • Palme d’Or: Anora, dir Sean Baker
  • Grand Prix: All We Imagine As Light, dir Payal Kapadia
  • Director: Miguel Gomes, Grand Tour
  • Screenplay: Coralie Fargeat, The Substance
  • Actor: Jesse Plemons, Kinds Of Kindness
  • Best Actresses: All the actresses in Emilia Pérez
  • Jury Prize: Emilia Pérez
  • Special Award (Prix Spécial): Mohammad Rasoulof, The Seed Of The Sacred Fig

Additional Prizes

  • Camera d’Or: Armand, dir Halfdan Ullman Tondel
  • Camera d’Or Special Mention: Mongrel, dir Chiang Wei Liang, You Qiao Yin
  • Short Film Palme d’Or: The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent, dir Nebojša Slijepčević
  • Short Film Special Mention: Bad For A Moment, dir Daniel Soares
  • Golden Eye Documentary Prize: Ernest Cole: Lost and Found, dir Raoul Peck and The Brink of Dreams, dir Ayman El Amir, Nada Riyadh
  • Queer Palm: Three Kilometers To The End Of The World, dir Emanuel Parvu
  • Palme Dog: Kodi, Dog On Trial, dir Laetitia Dosch
  • FIPRESCI Award (Competition): The Seed of the Sacred Fig, dir Mohammad Rasoulof and in Un Certain Regard: The Story Of Souleymane, dir Boris Lojkine

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