Thai film takes Palme d’Or

Asian cinema was the surprise winner of this year’s Cannes festival — a lyrically beautiful and often surreal Thai movie took the Palme d’Or.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives already had the best title of the 19 films in competition. It made director Apichatpong Weerasethakul the first Asian Palme d’Or winner since Abbas Kiarostami shared it with Shohei Imamura in 1997.

The film tells the story of a dying man who chooses to spend his final days surrounded by his loved ones in the countryside. Surprisingly, the ghost of his dead wife comes to care for him and his long-lost son returns home in a non-human form.

The prestigious Un Certain Regard sidebar prize went to another Asian film, South Korean director Hong Sangsoo’s Hahaha.
The Grand Prix, effectively the runner-up, went to Xavier Beauvois’s Of Men and Gods, his gripping dramatisation of the 1996 deaths of French Cistercian monks kidnapped by Islamist fundamentalists.

Juliette Binoche was named best actress for her role in Kiarostami’s Certified Copy. By common consent it was a stunning performance.

Best actor was shared by Javier Bardem, for his portrayal of an underworld businessman dying of cancer in Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s Biutiful, and Elio Germano, for Daniele Luchetti’s Our Life. Other awards included the Jury Prize to Chad filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun for his third film, A Screaming Man.

Actor Kirsten Dunst presented the best director prize to Mathieu Amalric for On Tour. Though he is better known as an actor, On Tour, about Parisian burlesque performers, is his fourth film. South Korea’s Lee Chang-dong won best screenplay for Poetry. Serge Avedikian, French but of Armenian origin, won the short-film competition for Barking Island.

This year’s Cannes had something of downbeat feel, perhaps aided by the detention of a competition judge, Iranian director Jafar Panahi, since March, allegedly because he planned a film on the disputed Iranian elections of last year. It emerged at the festival that Panahi is on hunger strike, demanding to see his family and get access to a lawyer.

Cannes selectors failed to include in the main contest a single film made by a woman; all 19 films were by men. — Guardian News & Media 2010

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