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Cannes 2018 Critics Survey: The Best Films, Directors, and One Big Palme d’Or Snub

20 critics from around the world voted in this year's survey, which highlights a film that went home empty-handed at the awards ceremony.


The Cannes Film Festival wrapped its 71st edition on Saturday with the Palme d’Or ceremony, awarding the top prize to Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “Shoplifters.” Other movies recognized by Cate Blanchett’s jury included Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” (Grand Prix) and Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War” (Best Director). While these movies were all well-received by the media covering the festival, one major film in competition went home empty-handed — and now, it has topped IndieWire’s critics survey of the best films of the festival.

Burning,” Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s first feature in eight years, took first place for best film in IndieWire’s annual poll. The drama, an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s short story “Barn Burning,” focuses on the mysterious experiences of a working class man (Ah-in Yoo) who obsesses over a seductive woman (Jeon Jong Seo) while resenting the confidant man (Steven Yeung) she spends her time around.

“Burning” found Lee returning to Cannes following the successful reception of his similarly melancholic character study “Poetry” in 2010. That year, the movie won a best screenplay prize from a jury headed by Tim Burton. The filmmaker had no such luck with the jury at the 2018 edition, though “Burning” was a hit with critics throughout the festival. The film landed the highest score in the history of Screen’s Cannes grid, which is updated throughout the festival, and also won the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) award at the end of the festival. However, “Burning” had not secured U.S. distribution by the end of this year’s festival.

Among the 20 critics from around the world who responded to the survey invite this year, 35% voted for “Burning” as the best film of the festival, while “Cold War” received 20% of the vote, and the Colombian crime drama “Birds of Passage” received 10% of the vote. Many other films received single votes for best film, speaking to the sheer range of sensibilities reflected in this year’s lineup and divisive reactions they generated among the press.

“Burning” director Lee also topped the best director category with 30% of the vote, followed by Pawlikowski for “Cold War” (25%) and Kore-eda for “Shoplifters” (15%). Kore-eda topped the best screenplay category with 25% of the vote, while “Burning” only received 10% of the vote in the category, tying for second place with Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s Jury Prize-winner “Capernaum” and Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s three hour-plus drama “The Wild Pear Tree,” the last film to screen in competition this year.


At Cannes, the best first feature is selected by the Camera d’Or jury. This year, their choice lined up with IndieWire’s critics survey: “Girl,” Belgian director Lukas Dhont’s first feature, stars Victor Polster as a transgender teen. The movie was an early favorite for the Camera d’Or prize following its premiere in the Un Certain Regard sidebar, and ended the festival with a Netflix distribution deal. It topped IndieWire’s critics poll for best first feature with 60% of the vote.

IndieWire invited a select group of critics to participate in this year’s survey, with participants from North America, Canada, South America, and Europe.

The 20 respondents are listed along with their outlets below, followed by a list of all the films that received votes in the survey on the next page.

Diego Batlle, Otros Cines

Beatrice Behn, Kino-Zeit

Jacqueline Coley, Rotten Tomatoes/IndieWire

Ben Croll, The Wrap/IndieWire

Peter DeBruge, Variety

David Ehrlich, IndieWire

Jean-Michel Frodon, Slate.fr

Finn Halligan, Screen International

Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian

Peter Howell, The Toronto Star

Ella Kemp, Little White Lies

Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Manuela Lazic, Little White Lies

Alicia Malone, Fandango/FilmStruck

Sophie Monks Kaufman, Little White Lies

Emily Yoshida, Vulture

Emma Stefansky, ScreenCrush

Amy Taubin, Film Comment

Anne Thompson, IndieWire

Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

This article continues on the next page. 

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