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What Makes a Winner at Cannes?

blue posterWhen all was said and done, the Festival de Cannes closed with awards that were not particularly surprising. Although there had been (and continues to be) debate about the merits of Abdellatif Kechiche’s erotic coming of age story of obsession, La Vie d’Adele – Chapitre 1 & 2/Blue is the Warmest Color), it was not a shock that it came away with the festival’s highest honor, the Palme d’or. What was unusual was that the jury – headed by Steven Spielberg and including directors Ang Lee, Lynne Ramsay, Naomi Kawase and Christian Mungiu and actors Nicole Kidman, Daniel Auteuil, Vidya Balan and Christoph Waltz – in fact named not only director Kechiche but both lead actors, Lea Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos, as winners of the prize. An unusual move, but quite a fitting move, as it is the work of these young women that helps to make this film so powerful.

Two American films in the main competition won awards: Bruce Dern received the Best Actor prize for his work in Alexander Payne’s Nebraska as an old man suffering from dementia who, convinced that he’s won a million dollars in a sweepstakes, tries to walk from Montana to Nebraska to claim his prize. And Joel and Ethan Coen won the Grand Prize (akin to second prize) for their look at the New York folk music scene of the early 1960s through the eyes of a singer on the brink of either stardom or total collapse, Inside Llewyn Davis.

The award for best actress went to Berenice Bejo (she was last seen on the Cannes screen in The Artist, which of course won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2011) for her performance in The Past, a film directed by Asghar Farhadi (whose last film, A Separation, won the Best Foreign Film Oscar).

Other prizes given out on Closing Night include Best Director to Spanish filmmaker Amat Escalante for his third feature film Heli (his first feature, Sangre, was shown in New Directors/New Films in 2006), Best Screenplay to Jia Zhangke for A Touch of Sin, and the Jury Prize to Hirokazu Kore-eda for his touching  story  of young boys switched at birth, Like Father Like Son.

As for making their way to screens in the U.S., some titles already have US distribution, but even without, many of them will certainly appear in other festivals and from there onto screens for theatrical runs in the states. Look to the skies, er, screens in the year to come!

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