CANNES '99: Jury Surprises Cannes Audience with Multiple Awards to "Rosetta" and "L'Humanite"
by Eugene Hernandez
Recognition on-stage by a fellow filmmaker was the only acknowledgement that David Lynch, Atom Egoyan, Arturo Ripstein, and Jim Jarmusch would receive Sunday night as the 1999 Cannes Film Festival concluded. Himself a favorite for the Festival's top prize -- the Palme D'Or -- Pedro Almodovar singled out the filmmakers during his acceptance speech for the Best Director prize, perhaps realizing those director's would be entirely overlooked on closing night. Among the biggest surprises were the two awards -- the Golden Palm and the award for Best Actress -- for "Rosetta" which screened on the last day of competition, and the three prizes -- Grand Prize and two acting awards -- for the soundly criticized "L'Humanite."
In fact, Almodovar's win was probably the only unsurprising nod. Although many had speculated that the Spanish filmmaker would win a bigger prize for his acclaimed new movie, "Todo Sobre Mi Madre," Almodovar received the evening's only standing ovation as he stood on-stage accepting his prize. Reacting to the jury's choices during the IFC television broadcast, film critic Roger Ebert commented that aside from the award for Almodovar, "everything else is a shock and a surprise."
The wave of surprise noticeably struck the audience in attendance at the closing night event. As Jury President David Cronenberg announced that he and his peers had chosen French filmmaker Bruno Dumont's "L'Humanite" as the Cannes Grand Prize winner, a shocked mixture of goraning boos and applause could be heard. Appearing somewhat stunned himself on-stage as he collected his prize, Dumont -- best known for "La Vie de Jesus" -- singled out the work of his two lead actors (actor Emmanuel Schotte and actress Severine Caneele) who won the Festival's top acting prizes. Caneele shared the top actress award with "Rosetta" star Emilie Dequenne.
The three award wins by "L'Humanite" were so surprising because of the reaction the film received earlier in the week. Journalists who attended the press screening described a rather raucous scene in which many booed the film and took to laughing out loud at its more serious moments, while others simply walked out. "The acclaim for 'L'Humanite" is startling, because of the reactions that everyone had (at the screenings)," indieWIRE Senior Editor Anthony Kaufman explained yesterday, offering his perspective on the choices after returning from Cannes this weekend. Another writer, reached Sunday after having returned to Manhattan from the Festival, called the film, with its "glacial" pacing, "painful to watch."
The Palme d'Or to Luc and Pierre Dardenne's "Rosetta" was less of a shock. Even though the film was not favored by analysts, mainly because, like the past two Golden Palm winners ("Taste of Cherry" and "Eternity for a Day"), it screened on the last day of the Festival. Kaufman indicated that the film screened well at a special market screening earlier in the week. Mentioning the film in a conversation on a plane back to New York on Saturday, an acquisitions executive at a major IndieWood predicted to indieWIRE that film would likely find a U.S. distribution deal. The Dardenne's film was the subject of considerable interest given the success of "La Promesse" which screened in the Director's Fortnight in Cannes in 1996.
As the ceremony concluded Sunday night and award winners gathered on stage for a photo, IFC-TV commentators Roger Ebert and Annette Insdorf acknowledged the "hush" that lingered inside the Palais as many attendees refrained from applauding and endorsing the selections of the Cannes jury. Summarizing her thoughts, Insdorf concluded, "One of the reasons the Cannes jury exists is to bring to international attention the films that would never get it otherwise." Roger Ebert quickly responded, "Well, they certainly did their job tonight." Insdorf punctuated, "I'll say...in spades."
The complete list of award-winners follows:
Palme d'Or (Golden Palme) -- "Rosetta" by Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Belgium
Grand Prix (Grand Prize) -- "L'Humanite" (Humanity) by Bruno Dumont, France
Prix de la Mise en Scene (Best Director) -- Pedro Almodovar, "Todo Sobre mi Madre" (All About My Mother), Spain
Prix d'interpretation feminine (Best Actress) -- Emilie Dequenne, "Rossetta" and Severine Caneele, "L'Humanite"
Prix d'interpretation masculine (Best Actor) -- Emmanuel Schotte, "L'Humanite"
Prix du Scenario (Best Screenplay Award) -- Youri Arabov and Marina Koreneva, "Moloch," Germany and Russia
Prix du Jury (Jury Prize) -- Manoel de Oliveira, "A Carta" (The Letter) Portugal
Prix de la Camera d'or (Golden Camera for first time director) -- Murali Nair, "Marana Simhasanam," India
Grand Prix de la C.S.T. (Technical Achievement Prize) -- Tu Juhua, Production Designer, "The Emperor and the Assasin"
Palme d'Or du Court-Metrage (Cinefondation Golden Palm) -- "When the Day Breaks" by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis
Prix du Jury du Court-Metrage (Cinefondation Jury Prize) -- "So-Poong" by Song Ilgon and "Stop" by Rodolphe Marconi
[A report from the awards ceremony will be published tomorrow (Monday) here at indieWIRE.com.]