Cannes 2017 draws to a close with sparkling awards ceremony, charming jury meet
The awards ceremony capped the two-week long 70th Cannes Film festival
The revelries and focused cinema experience at the 70th Cannes Film Festival came to an end amidst the watchful eyes of the French army parading the Croisette. 120 Beats Per Minute won the Grand Prix amongst all the entries from various countries.
The announcement by the jury got a standing ovation as the hall resonated with applause. Director Robin Campillo seemed spellbound at winning the prize.
The ceremony was a multilingual spectacle, and Monica Bellucci invited the jury to announce and give away the awards.
Nicole Kidman could not be there in person to receive her special award, Will Smith collected it on her behalf — doing an impersonation of her that delighted the audience. Kidman later came on a live chat to personally address the audience.
For the Palme d'Or, Juliet Binoche declared: "Love is light, and movies are made of light." The Square won the Palme d'Or hands down — much to the relief of the press that had been betting on the film ever since they saw it.
The press conference with the jury was a treat to witness as the good cheer of Will Smith and his childlike antics kept the mediapersons entertained. Will Smith said of the judging process: "It was smooth and easy. I was asking Pedro [Almodovar] to stop offering me sexual favours for my vote, otherwise all was well... That was a joke!"
The jury did have 'passionate discussions' before coming to unanimous decisions.
The women on the jury — Maren Ade, German film director; Fan Bingbing, Chinese actress; Jessica Chastain, American actress and producer; Agnès Jaoui, French actress and film director — were asked if they felt having female storytellers led to more authentic stories of how the world views women. The women expressed surprise at the representation of female characters in the films at Cannes this year. They hoped that women's point of view would be better covered (in the time to come).
Sofia Coppola's win marks the first time a female American filmmaker has been named Best Director at Cannes. It was felt that cinema must reflect society, and we're not there yet. Will Smith added that it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of Black directors in the competition as well.
Pedro Almodovar said that there was more than one film in this year's Cannes selection that had him mesmerised. Commenting on whether present day filmmaking could match up to those of masters in the field, Almodovar replied: "We need time if we are to be compared to the masters. Now everything (is) very fast so we cannot be compared to the masters."
He was also asked if the Palme d'Or would continue to be relevant in the future. Almodovar replied in the affirmative, pointing out that cinema is changing everywhere, and the way we are watching it is changing. We consume more images than ever before. There will be more story tellers, making more compelling and moving stories, but from France (the Palme d'Or) will be hugely important. "For the rest of the world, I can only say that we are not disappearing," Almodovar said.
Will Smith said the Palme d'Or would continue to be relevant "because the French audience is a rich, cultural, discerning, critical, audience with a head start over the rest of the world".
Almodovar was also asked if he wanted 120 Beats Per Minute to win the Palme d'Or considering his love for LGBT causes. Almodovar admitted that he had been moved to tears by the film, and that Robin Campillo had told the story of a hero who saved many lives.
Will Smith meanwhile, said that Jupiter Moon was a film he loved, as he was raised in a staunch religious household. Smith said he would watch the film again, and was very impressed with the director, Kornél Mundruczó.
Will Smith was also asked about films from Africa — and he replied by saying that the Cannes Film festival jury is representative of the world, and the attempt was always to being in films of colour from all backgrounds. "We can do more of this in the future... to find more films from a cross section and send them in by opening the alleyways. We are very intent to go beyond today," Smith said.
As for The Square, which won the Palme d'Or, the jury spoke of how the film was very well enacted and deals with the most important issues around the world. It's a completely contemporary film about the dictatorship of being politically correct, and the director and cast came in for high praise.
The finale of extended fireworks lit up the Cannes sky and mesmerised the jury, the filmmakers, the press and pedestrians alike. The first cracker that went out scared most people as it sounded like gunshots and no sparklers came out of it. The terrifying stillness that followed gave way to a second, third, fourth and countless other crackers in succession, as if saluting the very spirit of cinema.
The writer is a filmmaker
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