DANGEROUS TIMES: After the world watched Prince Harry marry Meghan Markle at Windsor, the Cannes Film Festival reclaimed attention, as stars aligned on the red carpet of the Grand Théâtre Lumière to mark the closing of the two-week event.
As expected, the awards ceremony delivered daring fashion, entertainment and glamour galore: Olga Kurylenko in a Dior strapless dress danced her way through the red carpet with her “Don Quixote” costars; jury members Léa Seydoux and Kristen Steward shone through in sequined Louis Vuitton and metallic embroidered Chanel dresses, respectively, while Sting treated guests to a surprise performance on the steps of the red carpet. Yet it was the politically charged atmosphere in the theater that made its mark on the evening.
Politics have defined the agenda throughout this year’s festival and Saturday’s closing ceremony highlighted the radical shift in attitude in the film industry, with powerful messages by the jury members, the award winners and the Italian actress Asia Argento, who courageously readdressed the Harvey Weinstein scandal on stage.
“In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old. This festival was his hunting ground. I want to make a prediction: Harvey Weinstein will never be welcomed here ever again. He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes,” said Argento, ahead of awarding Samal Yeslyamova with the best actress accolade, a sense of anger running strong in her voice.
“And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women, for behavior that does not belong in this industry or any industry or workplace. You know who you are. But more importantly, we know who you are. And we’re not going to allow you to get away with it any longer,” she continued.
Earlier in the week, jury president Cate Blanchett also led a women’s march here, declaring that “women are not a minority in the world,” Aïssa Maïga unveiled a project called “Black Is Not My Profession,” aiming at exposing discrimination in the French and American entertainment industries, while Benicio del Toro joined a demonstration against the Israeli army’s killing of Palestinians on the Gaza border.
To wrap the event, Blanchett — who stole the show yet again in a black Alexander McQueen tuxedo dress featuring a giant red bow at the back — opened the ceremony by praising the films in this year’s official selection for giving a voice “to the so-called invisible people: the disempowered, the displaced and the disillusioned, as well as those searching for connection, unification and love.”
She also paid tribute to the two Cannes directors who have been banned from leaving their home countries — Iran’s Jafar Panahi and Russia’s Kirill Serebrennikov. “We admire you and we are with you in spirit,” added Blanchett.
Panahi went on to win the award for best screenplay for his movie “Three Faces,” which was shared with director Alice Rohrwacher for her movie “Happy as Lazzaro.”
The political agenda continued to be highlighted with each award, even though the jury talked about making a pact to push the political environment outside their choices and to focus on emotion and creation. “The world is a very political place and the media very quickly turns human issues into political issues. The way work is absorbed and dissected and disseminated can be politicized, but the making is not political,” Blanchett said after the event.
When Spike Lee accepted the Grand Prix for his movie “BlacKkKlansman,” which makes unequivocal criticism of Trump’s America, he used his acceptance speech to reinforce that criticism. “I’m always asked what’s going on in the world today. Since we all got cinema, I refer to the Peter Weir film ‘The Year of Living Dangerously.’ I’ll repeat that, this is the year of living dangerously, so I take this on behalf of the People’s Republic of Brooklyn, New York,” he said.
Director Nadine Labaki, who won the jury prize for “Capernaum,” also had a powerful statement to make regarding the refugee crisis in the Middle East. “This award is huge for a small film like ours created at home. But it’s important to remember where the children in the film came from,” said Labaki, whose movie zooms in on the lives of children living in Lebanon’s slums and features amateur actors she discovered begging on the streets. “We can’t stay blinded to the suffering of these children. I believe in the power of cinema, not just to make us dream but to make us think. I don’t know what the solution is, but I invite everybody to reflect on it together.”
Other winners included Pawel Pawlikowski, who won best director for “Cold War”; Marcelo Fonte, who was honored as best actor for his performance in “Dogman,” and Jean-Luc Godard, who won a special jury prize for “stretching the boundaries of film and always redefining what cinema can be.”
As for the prestigious Palme d’Or, it went to a film that was well-regarded yet largely considered an outsider for the top prize: Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters,” a drama that tells the story of an impoverished family and paints a raw picture of middle-class Japan along the way.