50th Cannes Fest Awards Top Prizes To Kiarostami and Imamura; Chahine Recognized For A Lifetime Of Work
by Eugene Hernandez
Amidst widespread reports of disagreements among a seemingly
deadlocked jury, the 50th Cannes Film Festival came to close last night.
When all was said and done, "The Taste Of Cherry," directed by Iranian
filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami and "Unagi" directed by the Japanese filmmaker Shoei
Imamura were honored with Cannes' top prize, the Palme d'Or.
Kiarostami is no stranger to the French Riveria, "The White Balloon" which he
wrote, won Cannes' Camera d'Or in 1995, and his films "Through The Olive Trees"
and "And Life Goes On," screened at Cannes in 1994 and 1992 respectively. Yet,
this year the filmmaker and his work were nearly banned from participating in
the festival due to a restriction placed by the Iranian government's Ministry
of Culture, which objected to the films' subject matter -- suicide. One the
eve of the festival, the project and its director were allowed to attend
after the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stepped in to grant the
On stage accepting the Palme d'Or, Kiarostami expressed his "great pleasure"
at being in Cannes for the landmark anniversary and his gratitude to
Festival head Gilles Jacob and the selection committee.
Shoei Imamura, the seventy year old director of "Unagi", is also a previous
Cannes award winner, having also won the Festival's Palme d'Or in 1983 for
"The Ballad Of Narayama." The films' lead actor Koji Yakusho, who also stars in
the upcoming "Shall We Dance," accepted the award on the filmmaker's behlaf,
expressing that the director had not expected the prize and returned to
In an equally notable moment, the Festival recognized another participating
filmmaker, Youssef Chahine of Egypt (his new film, "Al Massir," is screening
out of competition), with the awarding of the 50th Anniversary Prize,
honoring his career of work . "Put yourselves in my shoes," Chahine
declared, taking the stage to an extended standing ovation, "I have butterflie
s in my stomach, my heart is beating and I have been waiting 47 years for
this." Beaming, he added, "I just have one piece of advice for the young --
be patient, its worth it."
The festival's other top prizes were presented swiftly during the ceremony at
the Cannes Palais. Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan's "The Sweet Hearafter,"
which had been widely expected to receive the Palme d'Or, was honored with
the juries' Grand Prize, while top acting awards were presented to Cathy
Burke for her work in the British film, "Nil By Mouth" and Sean Penn for his
role in the "She's So Lovely"from the United States.
The festival's Award for Best Director was presented to filmmaker, Wong
Kar-Wai, for his new film, "Happy Together" and the screenwriting prize went to
Good Machine's James Schamus for writing "The Ice Storm," his latest
collaboration with Director Ang Lee.
Japanese director Naomi Kawase was presented with the Camera d'Or, for her
film, "Sudaku" and the Festival's Technical prize was awarded to
Cinematographer Thierry Arbogast for his work on "The Fifth Element" and
"She's So Lovely."
Finally, the festivals' Jury Prize went to "Western," directed by
Manuel Poirier of France, and the Best Short Film award was presented to the
British filmmaker Tessa Sheridan for "Is It The Design Or The Wrapper," while
the Short Film Jury Prize was presented to Lieven Debrauwer (Belgium) for
"Leonie" and Emmanuelle Bercot (France) for "Les Vacances."