Directors, actors and film industry individuals of anywhere in the world will agree with me on the fact that Cannes Film Festival is the greatest film award ceremony in the world. The extent to which Cannes promotes film and showcases both young and new talents is simply unparalleled.
Needless to say, my Cannes experience this year was quite different from the ones I had in the past five years. As a longtime fan and follower of Cannes, the recurring element this year was something I was greatly bothered with. Almost all the films that were featured this year showcased destruction, violence and darkness. It is an understandable fact that the whole world is in a chaotic state right now, and that fact has been thoroughly presented in the movies this year. The unrest that is occurring in the world right now was a common occurrence in these movies, and an aware audience as me was quite disturbed by these prevalent themes. I personally found it quite hard to accept so much negativity in such high-class movies.
But I can't deny that this is, indeed, reality. Politically, economically and even individually, we are in turmoil. Terrorism is everywhere and countries can't provide enough security to their people. The might of even the most developed countries can't stand to the grittiness of this reality. When I went to watch the movies presented this year, I expected to be away from such an undeniable darkness but that clearly wasn't the case. I have to accept reality, and I can't really expect peaceful and fun themes in movies all the time. Other journalists and critics present there agreed with me on this feeling.
A major hassle we all faced was the strenuous security system, which ruined so much time for everyone. Every show, especially in the main premise, included security guards scanning our bodies from head to toe. I do understand that it's mandatory and no one really wants a sudden tragedy to occur during the festival. Speaking of tragedies, we spent a 1-minute silence for the Manchester incident. A grim reminder of how dark the current world really is.
Coming to the main competition, the awards were decided by a jury of big names in the film industry. There were over 6000 journalists present at the event, and we discussed among ourselves to decide some expected winners, and almost all of them matched our expectations. Celebrity directors who are no stranger to being featured in Cannes and other prestigious film festivals received our prominent focus. We specifically preferred Michael Haneke, Fatih Akin, Sofia Coppola, Naomi Kawase, Todd Haynes and Yorgos Lanthimos. Usually there are three to four such names in the lineup each year but this time almost all of them had their work featured or nominated. Maybe that's the charm of the 70th festival.
We expected “Loveless”, “120 Beats Per Minute”, “The Beguiled”, “Happy End” and “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” to take home the main awards. “Happy End”, sadly, did not receive any awards, which was quite understandable. Michael Haneke's specific style was present in this movie, but we could not see anything new from it. “Amour”, being its more successful forerunner, received the 'Palme d'Or' at 2012, so we couldn't help but expect “Happy End” to be a movie of the same caliber. It wasn't bad but it wasn't as good as “Amour”. Heneke's common theme of family was maintained here, and like always his movie seemed like a continuation. “The Square” was in the heart of many agreements and disagreements, but no one really expected it to win the greatest prize of them all: Palme d'Or. The satirical approach it took to represent modern interpretation of art was extremely interesting, and it definitely deserved the most prestigious award.
Cannes Film Festival has unique characteristics that set it apart from other film festivals.
This year, there was a special '70th Anniversary Award' given to none other than Nicole Kidman. We have been seeing her almost all the time in the past five years in Cannes, and while this time was no exception, it was special in a most interesting way. She broke records this year by having a total of 4 films featured in the main selection panel at the same year's festival, a record untouched by anyone else. She really does deserve praise for her noteworthy work on the screen.
The 'Grand Prix' award was given to “120 Beats Per Minute” directed by Robin Campillo. Another film by Campillo, “Eastern Boys”, was previous awarded at Berlin International Film Festival a few years back, and the main theme of homosexual relationship was quite similar in both the movies. Campillo truly is no stranger to being acclaimed. I loved “Eastern Boys” but found “120 Beats Per Minute” to be more mature and thoughtful.
The 'Best Director Prize' went to Sofia Coppola for “The Beguiled”. This chamber movie (shot in mostly one set) focused on the theme of women and their struggle, and surely was a difficult project to direct. Without a doubt, Coppola deserved this award. Joaquin Phoenix and Diane Kruger received the 'Best Performance by an Actor' and the 'Best Performance by an Actress' for the movies “You Were Never Really Here” and “In The Fade”, respectively. Once again, I came across a certain dark vibe in these movies. “Loveless”, the movie I expected to win the 'Palme d'Or', ended up winning the 'Jury Prize', which is certainly a distinction in itself. The 'Best Screenplay' Award was tied this year, between “The Killing of a Sacred Deer” by Yorgos Lanthimos and Efthimis Filippou, and “You Were Never Really Here” by Lynne Ramsay.
The Short Film Competition included a 'Palme d'Or' Award of its own, which was given to “A Gentle Night” by Qiu Yang. A 'Special Distinction by the Jury' was awarded to “The Ceiling” by Teppo Airaksinen. Furthermore, the Un Certain Regard, the second main category which awards debuting directors and stories that aim unusual themes, received significance this year as well. The 'Un Certain Regard Prize' was given to the drama film “A Man of Integrity” by the Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof. In the same category, the 'Prize for Best Actress' was given to Jasmine Trinca for the Italian movie “Fortunata”, and the 'Jury Prize' was given to “April's Daughter” by Michel Franco. Furthermore, the 'Prize for the Best Poetic Narrative' and the 'Prize for Best Direction' were awarded to “Barbara” by Mathieu Amalric and Taylor Sheridan for “Wind River”, respectively.
Other award categories which are always present in Cannes International Film Festival are 'Caméra d'Or', which was given to the French film “Montparnasse Bienvenue” by Léonor Sérraille, and of course, the 'Cinefondation' award. The 'First Prize' of 'Cinefondation' was given to “Paul Is Here” by Valentina Maurel. The 'Second Prize' and 'Third Prize' went to “AniMal” by Bahram & Bahman Ark, and “Two Youths Died” by Tommaso Usberti, respectively.
The theme of darkness and violence prevailed in most of the movies. I don't know if the world will keep moving in this pace. We obviously don't want reality to be like this. Cannes Film Festival is a hub of established directors, actors, journalists and great minds. It is a representation of the whole world through films. Sadly, everyone there shared the same sentiment: We don't want such dark themes in movies. If themes like these keep appearing, will we never get stories about braveries and motivational messages? Of course, directors are expressing their pain and disturbance towards terrorism and the darkness of this world through their movies. We don't want a world of movies which is filled with so much darkness. We want to enjoy movies that make us feel good, and of course, not be hassled by too much security all the time! Movies need to be more inspirational so we can be entertained with lighter moods and more open minds. Let's all strive to achieve a brighter world together.
By Rafi Hossain
with Shams Rashid Tonmoy