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Cannes 2024: Sean Baker’s Anora wins Palme d’Or


Sean Baker’s “Anora,” starring Mikey Madison as a Brighton Beach sex worker who gains a shot at wealth and happiness when she meets the son of a Russian oligarch, won the Palme d’Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival on Saturday night. Baker, accepting the award directly after the festival gave an honorary Palme to Geroge Lucas, made an “I’m not worthy” bow in front of Lucas as he took the stage.

Winning the Palme, Baker said, “has been my singular goal as a filmmaker for the past 30 years, so I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with the rest of my life, but I do know that I will continue to fight for cinema, because right now as filmmakers we have to fight to keep cinema alive.”

He continued: “This means making feature films intended for theatrical exhibition. The world has to be reminded that watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone and checking emails and half paying attention is just not the way, although some tech companies would like us to think so.”

Among others, Baker thanked Madison; his mother (for introducing him to movies); and his wife and creative partner Samantha Quan. He also gave shoutouts to two filmmakers he competed against, Francis Ford Coppola (who was at the ceremony to present Lucas’s award) and David Cronenberg, for their “profound influence.”

At the post-awards press conference, Greta Gerwig, the jury president, said that Baker’s film “felt both new and in conversation with older forms of cinema,” citing Lubitsch and Hawks. “And I think every single performance, their faces we just loved so much. It was just really heart-forward in terms of choosing.”

The Grand Jury Prize, for second place, went to Payal Kapadia’s second feature, “All We Imagine as Light,” the first Indian feature to compete at Cannes in three decades. Kapadia thanked the festival for inviting the film and added, “Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film!” She also thanked the immense staff of behind-the-scenes festival workers and said that she stood in solidarity with their movement.

The jury presented a special prize to Mohammad Rasoulof’s “The Seed of the Sacred Fig.” Rasoulof appeared at the film’s premiere yesterday less than two weeks after revealing that he had escaped Iran, where he was facing a prison sentence. Gerwig, at the press conference, said the jury wanted to award the special prize to recognize “what the film represents and the incredible cost that it took to make it.”

The jury prize (de facto third place) went to Jacques Audiard for the musical “Emilia Pérez,” which also split the best actress prize four ways. The jury cited the main women of the ensemble: Zoe Saldaña, Karla Sofía Gascon, Selena Gomez, and Adrianna Paz. “How can you award a harmony by singling out individual notes?” Lily Gladstone, explaining her fellow jurors’ rationale, said when presenting the award.

Best Actor went to Jesse Plemons, who has multiple roles in Yorgos Lanthimos’s “Kinds of Kindness,” while Best Director went to the Portuguese filmmaker Miguel Gomes for “Grand Tour,” a bold mix of documentary travelogue and old-Hollywood artifice.

Coralie Fargeat won the festival’s screenplay award for her “The Substance,” starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley as aerobics gurus trapped in a continual body-swap arrangement.

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