Round up: Cannes 2016

Arenike Adebajo 27 May 2016

The Cannes Film Festival came to a close on the 22nd May, ending another ten days of early rave reviews of films that will not be released to the general public for another year, written by reviewers whose mind is shot from watching eight films a day. As usual, the film event of the year threw up many movies for us to watch in the distant future, both from some up-and-comers and some of the old guard.

The all-important Palme d’Or was given to Ken Loach for the second time, having won in 2006 for The Wind That Shakes the Barley. The film that won him the gold this time is I, Daniel Blake, a tale of overcoming the red tape surrounding benefits in contemporary Britain. Though Loach expressed his surprise that he won, his film received fairly unanimous praise and was described by Owen Gleiberman as ‘a work of scalding and moving relevance’. The fact that Loach is able to continuously have his finger on the pulse of modern social issues shows that he is still at the vanguard of filmmaking in 2016, using cinema as a window into the lives of the forgotten. Though no official release date has been set, we can be sure that it will be around Oscar season.

The most contentious decision was the awarding of the Grand Prix to Xavier Dolan’s polarising family drama It’s Only the End of the World which seemed to have everyone but Guardian critic Peter Bradshaw, and the jury as it would seem, scratching their heads when it was given such a prestigious honour. Another interesting decision came in the splitting of the award for Best Director between Christian Mungiu for the Romanian drama Graduation, and Oliver Assayas for the divisive thriller Personal Shopper which received a chorus of boos at its first screening. One doubts that Assayas will pay too much mind after winning an award.

Acclaimed Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s new film The Salesman bagged the awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actor, for Shahab Hosseini’s performance, despite the opinion of audiences being that it was not as subtle an effort as A Separation, and The Past. Another decision that was widely considered to be somewhat underwhelming was the Best Actress award being given to Jaclyn Jose for her performance in Tagalog domestic drama Ma’Rosa. Though generally agreed to not be a weak performance, it was felt that Isabelle Huppert in Paul Verhoeven’s Elle was more deserving.

The final major award was the Jury Prize which was given to Andrea Arnold’s American Honey, which at first glance would appear to be an archetypal Sundance film, rather than one of the big players at Cannes. However the tale of raucous partying on a road trip across America captivated audiences, with Sasha Lane and Shia LaBeouf both receiving praise for bringing their characters to life.

What was heartening, both in the main competition and especially in the other parts of the festival, was the number of female directors whose films were given necessary spotlight. For years the film industry has been viewed as a male dominated dog-eat-dog society in which women have to work twice as hard to even get a foot in the door. This is undoubtedly still true, and the fact that only three of the films in the Official Selection is viewed as progress illustrates how dire the situation is. However, if one looks into the other sections of the festival then we can see some sure-fire good signs for the future. The Cinéfondation selection is exclusively for student films, and over half the films in this competition were directed by women. Though Hollywood and the film industry in general still needs to change its attitude to women in film, it’s great to see this in a selection that is supposed to bring forth the star directors of the future.

Despite a couple of the award choices being somewhat contentious, this years Cannes Film Festival was viewed to have been a great success. All of the films in the Official Selection garnered some praise, whilst selections such as Un Certain Regard gave some limelight to films from less prestigious directors. It will be a while before we can see any of the winners, but it promises great things for cinema in the next year.