Posted by Sydney J. Levine

As we mounted the stairs of the Red Carpet for the last time, the Closing Night Awards for the Cannes International Film Festival were announced by the Jury President, George Miller, Director of “Mad Max: Fury Road”. The eight additional members, four women and four men -- Arnaud Desplechin, Kirsten Dunst, Valeria Golino, Mads MikkelsenLászló Nemes , Vanessa ParadisKatayoon Shahabi and Donald Sutherland presented the awards. Surprise of the evening was that the German Competition film, Maren Ade’s “Toni Erdmann”, clearly an audience favorite and snatched up immediately for the U.S. by Sony Pictures Classics, received no award at all. However, it was a great evening for IFC/ Sundance Selects who has the U.S. rights to three winners, "I, Daniel Blake", "Graduation" and "Personal Shopper".

The Palme d’Or went to Ken Loach for “I, Daniel Blake”, the sad drama of a disabled worker and of a young single mother of two who hold each other up as they try to navigate the social service morass which denies them their rightful ability to pursue happiness. The 79-year-old British director Ken Loach also won in 2006 for "The Wind that Shakes the Barley" and has had over 18 films selected for Cannes. This Sundance Selects acquisition brought audiences to wrenching tears.

“The festival is very important for the future of cinema,” said Loach. “When there is despair, the people from the far right take advantage. We must say that another world is possible and necessary.”

Best Director Award was split between Romanian Cristian Mungiu ("Graduation" or “Bacalaureat”) and Olivier Assayas (“Personal Shopper”). Mungiu’s "4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days" won the Palme d'Or in 2007. His actresses had shared the Actress prize for "Beyond the Hills." Like the Romanian 2013 Berlinale winner, “Child’s Pose” and Iranian Asghar Farhadi’s 2012 Academy Award winner, “A Separation”, the film contains object lessons about the moral choices made by humans whose actions result in greater damage than originally foreseen, especially when taking place in an already corrupted society. In this story a father tries to protect his daughter and give her the greatest opportunities for making her life better than that of her parents.

Co-winner Olivier Assayas, received his first Cannes award for "Personal Shopper" (IFC Films). This is his second English-language film starring Kristen Stewart (Cesar winner for "Clouds of Sils Maria"). As she buys fashionable attire for a rich client and tries to communicate with her twin brother, who has recently died. It was a great Cannes for Stewart, who was well-received in Woody Allen's "Cafe Society" (Amazon has U.S.) as well.

Best Screenplay went to “The Salesman” by Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi (Amazon and Cohen Media Group share U.S. rights). His star, Shahab Hosseini won Best Actor his role as an actor in the midst of moving apartments and starring in Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman" when his wife (Taraneh Alidoosti) is assaulted in the shower of their new domicile by a man who assumes that she is the former tenant, a prostitute. Winning the Jury Prize for the third time (!) for coming of age road movie “American Honey” (A24 has U.S.) starring Shia LaBeouf and unknown Sasha Lane. British director Andrea Arnold wanted to dance as she accepted the award. Xavier Dolan, who won the 2014 Jury Prize of “Mommy” won the Grand Prix for his very theatrical "It's Only the End of the World". He cried to receive the award for his family drama starring some of the greatest French actors living today, Nathalie Baye, Vincent Cassel, Marion Cotillard, Léa Seydoux, Gaspard Ulliel. The film has no U.S. distributor yet. To my mind, the acting far outstripped the story. I am just glad the other greatest French actor, Isabelle Huppert, was not in Dolan’s film. She had her hands full in Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” the Competition film about another woman attacked in her home by an unknown assailant. Best Actress went to Jaclyn Jose for “Ma' Rosa” by Philippine director Brillante Mendoza.

The Caméra d'Or ("Golden Camera") for the best first feature film presented in one of the Cannes' selections (Official Selection, Directors' Fortnight or International Critics' Week) went to “Divines” directed by Houda Benyamina. Houda received her award with unconcealed joy and enthusiasm. The 35 year old Franco-Moroccan film director whose long and strong speech called on women to be more present in the world of cinema said, “I was always saying that I do not care about Cannes …but today, well I’m happy to be here. Cannes belongs to us too …For things to change, you have to put a lot more women in decision-making positions…I am a committed filmmaker, making films is a way to turn my [feminist] anger into perspective…Women! Women!” she added as she broke into the Arabic women’s Ululation. Houda’s film follows an impoverished young girl who drops out of school and escapes her family in search of her own emancipation and personal freedom.

Outside of the Official Awards the winner of the Queer Palm (Feature) was "Les Vies de Thérèse" by Sébastien Lifshitz and Queer Palm (Short): "Gabber Lover" Anna Cazenave-Cambet. And finally, the Palme Dog went to Nellie forPaterson”by Jim Jarmusch.


About Sydney Levine

Sydney Levine is an executive of longstanding in the international film business. She is a writer of the popular blog on international film business, SydneysBuzz which also has run on Indiewire, IMDbPro and IMDb since 2008 when Amazon acquired her twenty-five year old company FilmFinders. In 1988 Sydney created FilmFinders, the industry’s first database of worldwide features used by distributors, sales agents and festival programmers acquiring features. It became industry standard for organizing and tracking the rights-buying activities of the film business and was adopted by the Cannes Marché and developed into what today is called She and her partner, Peter Belsito continue to provide consulting and strategic planning for producers, national film organizations and other educational initiatives in international film business at Cannes, Toronto, Sundance, Germany's Deutsche Welle Akademie, Talents in Berlin, Sarajevo, and Guadalajara, EICTV the international film school in Los Banos, Cuba, Chapman University, UCLA Extension, Vilnius University, et. al. She organizes, moderates and participates in panel discussions on the international film business, as well as producing white paper research and reports on Sydney works with the markets in Cannes and Berlin in administering buyers’ data for North America, Latin America and Asia and gives tours of the market to newcomers. She opens the Cannes Shorts Corner with a presentation on The International Film Circuit for shorts. She has currently completed a book about Latin American Film Financing published in Spanish by the Guadalajara University Press. The English version on the Iberoamerican Film Business will be published in the fall of 2016.

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