The jury deliberations for the 70th Cannes Film Festival prizes were “devoid of violence,” joked this year’s president, Pedro Almodovar. “We always respected other members of the jury, of course, and everyone tried to convince each other, and other times not, but the results went very smooth, full of enthusiasm and powerful statements.”
Juror Will Smith offered a different explanation. “I was just trying to get Pedro from offering me sexual favors,” quipped the star, who gave the world’s most prestigious film festival a sense of humor this year. Smith kept his spirits up even when his favorite film, Jupiter’s Moon, from Hungary was overlooked. “Sometimes democracy sucks,” he joked. Turning more serious, he added, “I absolutely loved Jupiter’s Moon. I was raised in a very staunch, religious household, and I got everything.”
Many critics predicted the Palme D’or would go to either Russian-language title Loveless or 1990s AIDS drama 120 Beats per Minute. The latter took the Grand Prix while Sweden’s two-hour-and-20-minute socio-political comedy The Square shockingly pulled ahead to grab the festival’s top honor. French filmmaker Agnès Jaoui said Ruben Ostlund’s art-world satire was “clever, witty and funny and deals with questions so important for all of us: How we treat poor people around us, how do we deal with the media, the importance of being shocking and getting the media’s attention.”
When Almodovar, an ardent activist for LGBT causes, was asked by Deadline whether it was difficult to see 120 Beats not win the Palme, he responded, “I loved the movie, I was touched from the very beginning until the end… This is a very democratic jury, this is the only thing I can tell you now.”
The filmmaker then broke down in tears. “The majority of us loved Robin Campillo’s movie, I’m sure it’s going to be successful everywhere,” he said. “It’s about something that happened many years ago and it belongs to the LGBT. It (the movie) tells about the injustices, and Campillo tells the story of real heroes who saved many lives. We all agree with that.”
Later in the press conference, Campillo said he had to “rise above his emotions” in making 120 Beats, which was very personal for him. He drew from his experiences as a member of protest organization ACT UP, which crusaded against Francois Mitterand’s government over French drug companies’ refusal to provide breakthrough treatments.
“We were more than heroes,” Campillo said. “We were a whole bunch of gays, lesbians, drug users. All together we had to endure this epidemic for 10 years. We were victims in the public eye, and suddenly we were turned into bad homosexuals. There was a kind of heroism.”
Earlier in the week, Isabelle Huppert made a dig at the 70th Anniversary celebration, noting that only one film directed by a woman, in the festival’s history, Jane Campion’s The Piano, has won the Palme d’Or. Today, the festival made strides toward change: The Beguiled’s Sofia Coppola became the second female director in Cannes history to win best director after Yuliva Solntseva for 1961’s Chronicle of Flaming Years. Nicole Kidman also received a special 70th anni prize while Scottish filmmaker Lynne Ramsay’s screenplay You Were Never Really Here tied with Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
Given the progress at this year’s fest, the female jurors were asked what women are currently bringing to cinema. Jessica Chastain shared her distress. “I can’t really speak to female directors, but in regard to female characters, I’ve watched 20 films in 10 days for the first time and the one thing I take away is how the world views women, and for me the female characters represented were quite disturbing,” she said. “There are some exceptions, but I was surprised about the representation of female characters on screen. I do hope that when we involve more female storytellers, that more of the women I know in my day-to-day life who have their agencies; that they don’t react to men around them, that they have their own points of views.”
Chinese actress and producer Fan Bingbing said about Coppola’s win, “She did amazing work. We just want to advocate focusing on female filmmakers in the future…I have to say she won this prize not because she’s a female filmmaker, but because of the film itself.”
“Couple of black folks wouldn’t hurt,” said Smith, “But we’ll talk about that another time.”
Smith noted that he and fellow juror Park Chan-wook, are both pitching Cannes chiefs Thierry Fremaux and Pierre Lescure on a coalition at the festival that will spotlight films “by women, people of color and communities that don’t have access to this vibrant community.”