The competition jury saved the best for last. With the Palme d’Or awarded to the Cannes darling--Bong Joon Ho for his funny but affecting take on the class divides, Parasite --some of their other debatable choices were ducked and almost forgotten and forgiven.
At a press conference the jury president Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu said that the decision to award the big prize to Parasite was unanimous. He called the film a “unique experience”, appreciated its mix of genres and the unexpectedness intrinsic to it. “It is urgent and global despite being a local film,” he said.
Bong Joon Ho called the award, a first for South Korea, a “great gift” to mark the 100 years of Korean cinema this year. He felt that there was a huge amount of talent in the industry and organising retrospectives of various Korean filmmakers’ work could help its cinema reach out to the world.
The Grand Prix was given to French-Senegalese filmmaker Mati Diop for Atlantics . The first black woman to feature in the competition section, she also became the first black woman to grab an award on Saturday night. One of the jurors, Enki Bilal spoke about how despite having seen the film early on in the festival, it stayed with them: “It remained in our minds”. He appreciated it for the poetry with which it looks at the dark reality of illegal immigration. “It is deep and mysterious but humble,” he said.
Ladj Ly who won the jury prize for Les Miserables , that bristles with the anger of the French underclass, fittingly dedicated the award to the poor people of France and is hoping to organise a screening for President Emmanuel Macron. The co-winners of the jury prize Kleber Mendonca Filho and Juliano Dornelles spoke about the irony of receiving the award for Bacurau when Brazilian cinema is being “torn down from within” with cuts in State budget. They hoped the award will initiate a conversation on funding of cinema.
Early on in the ceremony, by giving the Best Screenplay award to Celine Sciamma for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, the jury made it amply clear that it was just this far and no further for the other big Cannes favourite. A beautiful film on love and art that deserved much better.
Meanwhile, the best actress award to Emily Beecham for Little Joe left everyone befuddled specially when there were many other worthy names--Noemie Merlant and Adele Haenal in Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Debbie Honeywood in Sorry We Missed You, Valerie Pachner in A Hidden Life among others.
Antonio Banderas, the eventual winner for Pain and Glory, must have also been given a tough fight in the best actor category by Leonardo DiCaprio in Once Upon A Time… In Hollywood and the magnificent August Diehl in A Hidden Life. Banderas called Cannes the Grand Slam of cinema and dedicated the award to director Pedro Almodovar. He said it was as much in his own name as that of his on-screen character--Salvador--who is meant to be a reflection of Almodovar. Jury's way of acknowledging both the auteur and the actor in one go.
The most widely contested award of the evening was for Best Director given to Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne for Young Ahmed. It left many stupefied and indignant. The film isn’t just an artistically minor work coming from giants like the Dardenne Bros but also steps on a veritable political minefield with its utterly facile look at something as complicated as religious indoctrination and radicalisation of the young. All of it with an easy, simplistic and moralistic end to boot. If auteurship was the reason for handing over this award then Ken Loach’s Sorry We Missed You and Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life missed the boat rather unfairly, despite being better realised and more nuanced takes on the world around us.