Award: Victory for film heroines at the Cannes Film Festival

“Anora” by Sean Baker won the Palme d’Or in Cannes. It is not the only winning film at the festival in which women defend themselves.

The main prize went to a man – but the winning films in Cannes all tell the story of strong women. US director Sean Baker received the Golden Palm of the film festival last night for “Anora”.

The tragicomedy is about a young stripper who has to defend herself against a Russian oligarch family. Not only in “Anora”, but also in all other award-winning works, film heroines pursue their goals.

Sean Baker dedicates film to “all sex workers”

With “Anora”, the jury honored a refreshing tragicomedy with slapstick elements that focuses on a fearless main character. The film tells the story of young Ani (Mikey Madison). At her workplace in an erotic bar in New York, she meets the Russian oligarch’s son Vanya.

The two start flirting and after a few days they spontaneously marry – much to the dismay of Vanya’s parents, who live in Russia. They instruct their local helpers to annul the marriage. A helpless trio of three men show up at Vanya’s property – and he runs away.

When Ani and she try to catch him again, all sorts of funny situations arise in which the protagonist asserts herself. The 53-year-old Baker dedicated the film to “all sex workers”. And on stage he thanked his wife, the film’s producer.

In the film by refugee Rassulof, Iranian women fight back

A special jury prize went to director Mohammed Rassulof, who recently fled to Germany from Iran. His harrowing film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”, which was shot without permission, is set in autumn 2022, when the death of Iranian Kurd Jina Mahsa Amini sparked violent protests in Iran.

At the centre is a family whose members react very differently to the protests. The daughters fight back against their parents’ conservative ideas. At the end of the thriller, the women lose their powerlessness.

Speaking about his inspiration for the film, Rassulof said: “There are all these very brave young women who are not afraid of anything and who, in this way, created this film thanks to the inspiration they gave me.”

“I would like to thank all women who raise their voices”

French actress Coralie Fargeat won the award for best screenplay for her work “The Substance.” The science fiction film stars Demi Moore and deals with images of beauty in a drastic way. “This film is about women, the experience of women in the world and the violence that can surround these women,” said Fargeat.

“I believe that films can change the world and I hope that this film is a small step in that direction. I want to thank all the women who take the risk of raising their voices to make the world a better place.”

Miguel Gomes’ artistic black-and-white historical film “Grand Tour” also tells the story of a woman who refuses to accept that her fiancé has left her without explanation. The Portuguese director was awarded the best director.

Award for best actress goes to four women

And then there was the film “Emilia Pérez”, for which French director Jacques Audiard won the Jury Prize. The musical tells the story of a Mexican cartel boss who undergoes gender reassignment and then tries to atone for past crimes.

Unusually, four actresses from the film shared the award for best actress: Karla Sofía Gascón, Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez and Adriana Paz. “It felt like they formed a brilliant unit together, and separating them would have undermined the magic of what they created together,” said jury president Greta Gerwig at the event. “I think that’s something we felt in many films: that it was the women together. That was something we really wanted to honor.”

Second most important film for young Indian director

The drama “All We Imagine as Light”, which received the festival’s second most important award, is also about a community of women. The film by Indian director Payal Kapadia tells the story of several women living together in Mumbai. The 38-year-old filmmaker won the Grand Jury Prize for it.

A film about female voices had already attracted attention at the beginning of the festival. French actress Judith Godrèche presented her short film “Moi aussi”. The film shows people describing their experiences with sexual abuse.

Godrèche collected the voices of people who contacted her after the actress publicly denounced sexual abuse in the film industry. The 52-year-old triggered a new MeToo wave in France.

Only three Palm winners since 1946

So does Cannes show that women’s experiences in the film world have become more visible? Director Kapadia is still hesitant to pass judgment. “I want to believe that this is true,” she said. “It’s wonderful that more films are being made by female filmmakers, technicians, camerawomen, sound engineers. We need a lot more – but the change is happening, slowly but surely.”

At the same time, she said: “I hope that we will see more films by female directors in France.” This year, only four of the 22 works in competition were by women. Only three women have ever won a Palme d’Or – since 1946.


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