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France’s Julia Ducournau becomes 2nd woman to win Cannes’ top prize

French director Julia Ducournau on Saturday won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for best picture for her movie “Titane” about a young serial killer, becoming only the second woman to win what is one of the most prestigious awards in the cinema world.

French director Julia Ducournau on Saturday won the Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or for best picture for her movie “Titane” about a young serial killer, becoming only the second woman to win what is one of the most prestigious awards in the cinema world.

The last woman to win the Palme d’Or was New Zealand-born Jane Campion in 1993 with “The Piano.” The world’s leading film festival has attempted in recent years to head of criticism about being something of boys’ club by seeking to spotlight the role of women in film-making.

Paris-born Ducournau’s at times shocking “Titane” was a follow-up to her critically acclaimed cannibal coming-of-age movie debut “Raw.”

“Titane” was one of 24 movies vying this year for the Palme d’Or, which was awarded at a gala ceremony in the Mediterranean resort town by a nine-member jury headed by Oscar-winning New York film-maker Spike Lee.

Dressed in brightly coloured suit with matching sneakers, Lee caused a stir at the normally carefully choreographed event by announcing the Palme d’Or winner too early.

The 74th Cannes festival was also held against the backdrop of the global uncertainty unleashed the coronavirus crisis.

After abandoning last year’s event amid the onslaught of the pandemic, festival organizers had a vast backlog of movies to draw on for this year’s programme.

On top of the tough airport-type security for access to Cannes venues, festival-goers this year also faced a series of rigorous Covid-19 tests before attending any festival events.

The uncertainty created by the coronavirus crisis meant that many appeared to have been deterred this year from the making the trek to the palm-lined Cote d’Azur town.

According to some estimates, about 20,000 attended this year’s  festival – about half the normal number.

But there was a general sense of excitement about Cannes helping to mark the return of cinema after theatres and many productions were shut down for months due to the pandemic.

“It’s amazing to be here at the Cannes Film Festival, especially this year, in which we’re seeing cinema come back,” Sean Baker was reported as saying at this week’s premiere of his film “Red Rocket,” which was also a Palme d’Or contender.

“It feels so great to be back in a movie theatre,” he said.

In unveiling this year’s prizes, the Cannes‘ jury awarded the Grand Prix to both Iranian director Asghar Farhadi for “A Hero” and Finland’s Juho Kuosmanen for “Compartment No 6.”

The Grand Prix is the festival’s second prize after the Palme d’Or.

Cannes‘ third prize, the jury prize, was also shared between Israel’s Nadav Lapid for “Ahed’s Knee” and Thailand’s Apichatpong Weerasethakul for “Memoria.”

Two years ago Lapid won the Berlin Film Festival’s top prize, the Golden Bear for “Synonyms,” which like “Ahed’s Knee” took a hard look at Israeli identity.

The best director prize was awarded to France’s Leos Carax for his musical romance “Annette,” which launched the festival 12 days ago.

Renote Revista from Norway won the festival’s best actress award for her role as a woman in Joachim Trier’s comedy “The Worst Person in the World,” who throws herself into a relationship with a younger man.

The best actor award went to Caleb Landry Jones of the US for playing a mass murderer in Australian director Justin Kurzel’s “Nitram” based on the 1996 Port Arthur massacre in Australia’s island state Tasmania.

Japan’s Hamaguchi Ryusuke and Takamasa Oe won the best screenplay award for “Drive my Car”, which was directed by Hamaguchi.

The award came after Hamaguchi was awarded the Berlin Film Festival’s Grand Jury Prize for “Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy” in March.

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