Romanian Abortion Movie Wins At Top Prize At Cannes

28 May

CANNES, France – A harrowing Romanian film won Cannes’ top prize late Sunday, as the world’s biggest film festival brought the curtain down on a 12-day run remarkable for its star-studded brightness — and the death-obsessed darkness of its movies.

“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days” elbowed aside 21 other films to snatch the Palme d’Or at a glittering ceremony marking the end of the festival’s 60th
edition.

Its victory, and that of other films that picked up Cannes’ lesser awards, highlighted a preference for small arthouse fare over big-budget pictures that were also in competition, many of them from the United States.

Cristian Mungiu, the director of the winning movie, said after accepting the golden trophy from 69-year-old US actress Jane Fonda: “You don’t necessarily need big budgets and big stars to make stories.”

His small-budget film evokes the big themes of personal freedom and political repression through a wrenching story about a girl’s illegal abortion in communist-era Romania.

“This is just like the best event that has happened to a wave of Romanian cinema,” he said of his win.

The festival’s runner-up Grand Prix trophy went to “The Mourning Forest,” a low-key tale by Japanese director Naomi Kawase that builds up power as it looks at people haunted by deep personal loss.

Third place, the Jury Prize, was shared by “Persepolis,” an autobiographical animation about grim life under the ayatollahs in Iran by French-Iranian debut director Marjane Satrapi, and “Silent Light,” a Mexican movie about love, death and faith, by Carlos Reygadas.

“I want to dedicate this prize to all Iranians,” Satrapi said, days after Tehran slammed her film as misrepresenting the “achievements of the Islamic
revolution.”

A South Korean actress and a Russian actor picked up awards for their performances in two other films that dealt with mortality and grief.

Best Director went to US filmmaker Julian Schnabel for “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” about a mute and paralysed former French magazine editor who struggles to write a book.

Best Script went to “The Edge of Heaven,” a touching movie by a German-born Turkish director about death and forgiveness across an East-West divide.

A special prize for the festival’s 60th anniversary went to US director Gus Van Sant, who was back with “Paranoid Park” after winning the Palme four years
ago for “Elephant.”

The Cannes jury this year was headed by British director Stephen Frears and included actresses Maggie Cheung of Hong Kong and Toni Colette of Australia, and Turkey’s Nobel prize-winning author Orhan Pamuk.

They – and many of the 15,000 festival-goers – sat through a programme that was dominated by dark themes.

Death figured in all the competition line-up, with tragedy being the dominant treatment in most cases.

The few who treated death with bleak humour – mainly veteran directors the Coen brothers, who presented an existential cowboy film called “No Country for
Old Men,” Quentin Tarantino, who brought “Death Proof” to the screen, and Serbian filmmaker Emir Kusturica, with his colourful Balkan romp “Promise Me
This” — were snubbed in the awards.

Out of competition, Michael Moore’s new documentary “Sicko” about the deficiencies of the US health system, and “A Mighty Heart” about the widow of
Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter decapitated by Islamic extremists in 2002, created a stir.

A steady, glittering stream of stars flowed throughout the festival.

Among the famous who trod the red carpet were Brad Pitt and partner Angelina Jolie, George Clooney, Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jude Law, Matt Damon, Norah Jones, Gong Li, Kylie Minogue and U2.

Several of the A-listers made it clear that they, too, were part of the surge of seriousness that had overtaken Cannes.

DiCaprio presented a documentary he made about the dangers of global warming “The 11th Hour,” while Jolie evoked the pain of the woman she played in “A Mighty Heart.”

Clooney, Pitt, Damon and the rest of the cast attending a world premiere of “Ocean’s Thirteen” held a charity bash to raise money for the Sudanese displaced by the Darfur conflict. – AFP/ra

Channel News Asia

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