Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 February 2020

Cannes hands out penultimate night awards

With Un Certain Regard prizes now decided, all eyes turn to closing night

Un Certain Regard winner Ali Abbasi at Cannes earlier this week
Un Certain Regard winner Ali Abbasi at Cannes earlier this week

The Cannes Film Festival presented its “second-tier” Un Certain Regard Awards last night ahead of the presentation of the illustrious Palme D’Or at tonight’s closing ceremony and the long awaited screening of Terry Gilliam’s decades-in-the-making The Man Who Killed Don Quixote.

The top award, the Un Certain Regard prize, went to the Danish-based, Iranian director Ali Abbasi for his genre defying mix of romance, mystery, social realism and supernatural horror Border, centred on a Swedish customs official with an unusually pronounced sense of smell.

There was also regional success when a tearful Moroccan writer/director, Meryem Benm’Barek, picked up the Best Screenplay Award for her drama Sofia, about a 20-year old Moroccan woman facing arrest after giving birth out of wedlock.

Another rising star to watch is 16-year old Belgian actor Victor Polsner, who picked up Best Performance for his role as a transgender girl who dreams of being a ballerina in Lukas Dhont’s Girl.

The Best Director Award, meanwhile, went to an old hand in the shape of Ukrainian film maker Sergei Loznitsa, in competition for the third time with his political drama Donbass. The film is set in the conflict-stricken eastern part of his home country, where Ukrainian nationalists and Russian separatists have been battling it out since 2014.

Finally, a Special Jury Prize was presented to Portuguese-Brazilian duo João Salaviza and Renée Nader Messora for their film The Dead and the Others, a visually arresting look at indigenous traditions and mythology in northern Brazil.

All eyes are now on the Palme d’Or. The jury, headed by Cate Blanchett, is still out on that one. If the critics are to be believed, Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning should have this sewn up: the film has a 3.8 score in the Screen Daily Critics’ Poll, breaking the record set by Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann two years ago. It’s worth noting that Ade went home empty handed on that occasion.

There’s regional representation here from Nadine Labaki’s Lebanese drama Capharnaum, about a preteen boy who is suing his parents for bringing him into the world while raising a one-year old baby. The film hasn’t fared too well in the critics’ polls, but in a year in which Cannes has promised more female representation, and when Blanchett, the jury’s president, took part in a protest to that effect on the steps of the Grand Lumiere Theatre, could the stars align for a second woman to finally pick up the prize? Jane Campion remains the sole female recipient since she picked up the prize in 1993 for The Piano.

Elsewhere, the other burning question is “Will Don Quixote finally screen?” Director Gilliam has famously been trying to make the film for over three decades, and the hurdles and comic mishaps that have so far prevented him were even made into a documentary, Lost in La Mancha, about his failed attempts back in 2002.

Now, 16 years later, the film is finally set to premiere closing the festival, but this week alone it has faced a legal challenge from a former producer to stop the screening, the withdrawal of Amazon from backing the film and even a health scare for Gilliam. At the time of writing, the French courts had cleared the film to show and Gilliam had made a full recovery, but could there still be one last twist in this 30+ year tale of woe? Check back later to find out.


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