Politically charged Cannes heads to awards night

AFP , Saturday 25 May 2024

The 77th Cannes Film Festival draws to a close Saturday after a politically charged edition full of blood and feminism.

Rasoulof held pictures of his actors on the red carpet (Photo: AFP)


Emotions ran high on the final day of screenings, when Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof premiered his film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" after escaping a prison sentence in his home country just days before the festival.

"The Iranian regime... is in a panic that our stories will be told. It's absurd," Rasoulof told reporters at the festival on Saturday.

It was among 22 entries competing for the Palme d'Or, the top prize of the world's leading film get-together.

Attention now turns to the jury, led by "Barbie" director Greta Gerwig and including actors Omar Sy and Eva Green, which will deliver its verdicts at the closing ceremony late Saturday.

Among the favourites is a highly original musical about a Mexican narco boss having a sex change, "Emilia Perez", by French director Jacques Audiard, who already has a Palme d'Or under his belt.

Critics also loved "Anora" by US indie director Sean Baker, a raw and often hilarious story about a New York erotic dancer who strikes gold with a wealthy client, only to face the wrath of his Russian oligarch parents.

Its star, 25-year-old Mikey Madison, is a serious contender for best actress.

So is comeback queen Demi Moore after rave reviews for her "fearless" performance in "The Substance", an ultra-gory horror film about the pressures women face to maintain bodily perfection as they age.

Directing legend Francis Ford Coppola was spotted at the festival early Saturday, suggesting he may pick up an award later for his Ancient Roman fable "Megalopolis".

Anticipation was sky-high before the festival for his decades-in-the-making epic: could he recreate the 1970s magic of "The Godfather" and "Apocalypse Now", when he twice won the Palme d'Or?

But critics were deeply divided over whether it was a profound end-of-life philosophical statement or an incomprehensible mess.

- 'Powerful indictment' -

There was a notable paucity of meaty roles for men this year.

Many expect Ben Whishaw -- one of Britain's best character actors, and the voice of Paddington Bear in the popular family films -- to take the prize for "Limonov: The Ballad" in which he plays a dissident Soviet poet.

One of the few other standouts was Sebastian Stan as Donald Trump in "The Apprentice", a surprisingly nuanced biopic about the ex-US president's formative years.

Trump's team called it "garbage" and vowed to sue over its depiction of him raping his wife.

A late dark horse is "All We Imagine as Light", the first Indian entry in 30 years.

It is a poetic monsoon-set portrayal of two nurses who have migrated to Mumbai, described as a dreamlike five-star "triumph" by The Guardian.

It seems almost guaranteed that Rasoulof will get some sort of prize for "The Seed of the Sacred Fig", which tells the story of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart by the "Woman, Life, Freedom" protests that convulsed Iran in 2022-23.

Critics described it as a "deeply upsetting masterwork" (IndieWire) and a "powerful indictment of Iranian oppression" (The Hollywood Reporter).

Rasoulof, who has been imprisoned in the past for his uncompromising films, was facing a new eight-year prison sentence and fled the country, announcing his escape just one day before Cannes started last week.

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