Exotic dancer drama ‘Anora’ wins Cannes Film Festival’s top prize

May 25, 2024 – 3:03 PM PDT

Director Sean Baker, Palme d'Or award winner for the film "Anora", poses for a family photo next to George Lucas, Greta Gerwig, Jury President of the 77th Cannes Film Festival and other winners at the end of the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe
Director Sean Baker, Palme d’Or award winner for the film “Anora”, poses for a family photo next to George Lucas, Greta Gerwig, Jury President of the 77th Cannes Film Festival and other winners at the end of the closing ceremony of the 77th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 25, 2024. REUTERS/Stephane Mahe

CANNES, France (Reuters) – “Anora,” a darkly funny and touching drama about a young exotic dancer who becomes involved with a Russian oligarch’s son, won the Cannes Film Festival’s top prize, the Palme d’Or, on Saturday.

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The film by U.S. director Sean Baker beat the 21 other films in the competition line-up, including entries by established directors like Francis Ford Coppola and David Cronenberg.

“Anora” continues a streak of sex worker-focused films by Baker, including the 2021 Cannes entry “Red Rocket” and 2017’s “The Florida Project” starring Willem Dafoe.

This win is dedicated to “to all sex workers past present and future,” he said as he accepted the award, while also thanking the film’s star, Mikey Madison, as well as Samantha Quan, his wife and producer.

“This has been my life’s goal, so to reach this place is… I’m going to have to do some thinking tonight about what’s next,” Baker told Reuters after the ceremony.

Jury president Greta Gerwig, the director behind the pink-hued hit “Barbie,” called “Anora” an “incredibly human and humane film that captured our hearts” when announcing the award that was handed out by George Lucas, of “Star Wars” fame.

Lucas was on stage to receive an honorary award during the festival’s closing ceremony from his longtime friend Coppola, whose passion project “Megalopolis” was also in competition.

“I’m just a kid who grew up in the middle of California, surrounded by vineyards, and made films in San Francisco with my friend Francis Coppola,” said Lucas at the ceremony.

The Grand Prix, the second-highest prize after the Palme d’Or, was awarded to “All We Imagine As Light,” marking the first time an Indian director had won the prize.

Director Payal Kapadia’s debut feature about the friendship between three women was the first Indian film in competition in 30 years.

“The fact that we could be here is a testament that if you stick to one thing and don’t give up hope, then the film could possibly be made, and we are here,” she said.

Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who was in Cannes about two weeks after announcing he had gone into exile, was given a special award for “The Seed of the Sacred Fig,” about an Iranian court official who grows increasingly controlling and paranoid as protests begin to swell in 2022.

DOUBLE HONOURS

“Emilia Perez,” a musical about a Mexican cartel boss who transitions from male to female, was doubly honoured.

Director Jacques Audiard received the jury prize on stage, while the best actress prize was expanded to include all the film’s female stars, with jury member Lily Gladstone saying “Emilia Perez” celebrated the “harmony of sisterhood.”

Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez, Karla Sofia Gascon and Adriana Paz all star in the film that Vanity Fair magazine called “a movie unlike any other.”

“I want to dedicate this to all the women, trans and non-trans, in the world, this is for you, for all the minorities who are not left in peace when we simply want to go on living,” said Gascon, who is the first transgender actress to win the prize.

Jesse Plemons was named best actor for playing three different parts – a struggling police officer, a cult member and a man whose every action is controlled by his boss – in director Yorgos Lanthimos’ absurdist triptych “Kinds of Kindness.”

Best screenplay went to “The Substance,” a Demi Moore-led body horror about the perils of youth and beauty, while Miguel Gomes took best director for “Grand Tour,” an eclectic trip through Asia by a British civil servant and his pursuing fiancee.

The 77th edition of the festival ran from May 14 to 25.

Reporting by Miranda Murray and Hanna Rantala, Editing by Jane Merriman and Josie Kao

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