'No' takes top honors in Directors' Fortnight at Cannes
Well, that was a, uh, no-brainer. As Cannes winds down, its numerous awards start getting doled out -- and the most notable win so far comes for Pablo Larrain's critics' darling "No," which has just taken the Art Cinema Award, the top prize in the festival's Directors' Fortnight sidebar.
The film, a riveting political campaign drama starring Gael Garcia Bernal, was the obvious favorite for the award from its first screening way back on the third day of the festival, where it received rapturous applause and prompted many to ask why it wasn't in a higher-profile strand of the festival. Since then, it's had pretty much a dream festival run: reviews were glowing across the board, while word of mouth spread rapidly from that first screening, inspiring many more Competition-focused critics to give it some column inches.
Most thrillingly, US art-film powerhouse Sony Pictures Classics acquired the distribution rights a few days ago, assuring it a wider release than any of Larrain's previous films and significantly upping its chances of Oscar attention -- providing, of course, that Chile submits it to the Academy. All in all, a spectacular outcome for a film that might not have gotten its due in Competition -- though you can bet the selectors won't be caught napping the next time Larrain brings a film their way.
I haven't been able to dig into Directors' Fortnight as much as I'd have liked to this year, though I understand from colleagues that it was a stronger-than-average lineup. Still, nothing has eclipsed "No" as the breakout story of this year's festival sidebars, so the award feels appropriate. The film remains one of my two favorites of the entire festival -- if you'll forgive the smugness, I'm pleased I listed it as one of my five most anticipated titles before Cannes kicked off.
In other awards news, veteran Algerian director Merzak Allouache's "The Repentant," a reportedly deeply moving drama about Islamic fundamentalism, won the Best European Film prize in Directors' Fortnight. (Before you complain that Algeria isn't in Europe, it's a French production.) Cannes regular Nuri Bilge Ceylan took the Fortnight's Carosse d'Or award, a career achievement prize of sorts.
Meanwhile, over in the Critics' Week sidebar -- far less talked-about than the Fortnight this year, largely due to the prevalence of first-time filmmakers in its lineup -- Spanish emigration drama "Here and There," about a Mexican migrant worker returning home after many years in the US, took the Grand Prize, which went to Jeff Nichols' "Take Shelter" last year.
Lesser awards in the same strand went to "Sofia's Last Ambulance," a comic documentary about paramedics in the Bulgarian capital, Israeli theological thriller "God's Neighbours" and Argentinian juvenile-delinquent drama "The Wild Ones."