Trying to predict the winners of the Cannes Film Festival is a bit of a crapshoot. It doesn’t seem like it should be, there are only seven categories, nine jury members, and 21 films to choose from. Compared to the 7500 members of the Academy, it should be easy, right? Not so much. The Cannes festival prizes for its In Competition films have a strict set of rules. If you win the Palme (Best Picture) you can’t win anything else. In fact, no film can win more than two prizes and if a film is awarded two is must be a combination of Best Screenplay or the Jury Prize with a Best Performance award, with a special dispensation of the Festival’s President. This happened last year with Lynne Ramsay picking up the screenplay award for You Were Never Really Here and Joaquin Phoenix winning Best Actor. The rule was set in place in the 1980s when the Coen Brothers’ Barton Fink won the Palme d’Or, Best Director and Best Actor (for John Turturro). Then there’s the gambit of who’s left Cannes and who is/was called to stay. This used to be a very good tell in the past but recently some people were called back only to go home emptyhanded.
This year is going to especially difficult for President Cate Blanchett and her jury. The representation of women, or lack thereof at this festival, has been a major talking point. Last week 82 women marched on the red carpet, led by Cate Blanchett, Ava DuVernay, Kristen Stewart and Khadja Nin, to highlight that in 71 years of the festival only 82 women have walked that carpet as directors of their films in competition – compared to 1,645 men. It’s an astonishing number, one that shocked everyone.
So, what is a jury, comprised of five women and four men going to do this year? To me, it seems like they’re in a lose-lose situation. There are only three women eligible for the Palme this year but will choosing one of them be too obvious? What if a man wins? The hit pieces will be launched before the end of the closing night party. It’s going to be a heavily scrutinized decision because if they choose a female winner, she will become only the second director ever to earn that. In 2013, stars Léa Seydoux and Adele Exarchopoulos were given special dispensation by jury President Steven Spielberg to officially share the Palme with their director, Abdellatif Kechiche, for Blue is the Warmest Color. The only female director to win was Jane Campion for The Piano in 1993. But even with that win, it was a tie with Kaige Chen for Farewell My Concubine. So, in reality, there is still history to be made for a female director to win on her own.
I do think this jury will choose a female winner from the three eligible contenders: Alice Rohrwacher for Happy as Lazzaro, Eva Husson for Girls of the Sun or Nadine Labaki for Capernaum. At the moment, Rohrwacher is the critical frontrunner. Her film is the highest rated, by a big margin, from the aggregate polls for the festival. Capernaum is next and reports yesterday said Kristen Stewart was in tears after the jury screening of the film. Busson’s Girls of the Sun is the only one I would count out, it would be the most poorly received winner in modern history. But, it’s a simple majority rule decision, so the winner doesn’t need to be unanimous.
If they do not choose a female winner there are 18 other films for them to choose from. Burning from Lee Chang-dong, Shoplifters from Kore-Eda Hirokazu and BlacKkKlansman from Spike Lee would be the top contenders. They would also be top contenders for Director, along with Jia Zhang-Ke (Ash is Purest White) or either of directors who were not able to attend, Jafar Panahi for 3 Faces (who is in hiding from his government) or Kirill Serebrennikov for Leto (who is under house arrest by his). Those would be highly political stances to make and very possible.
Best Actress seems to be between Zhao Tao (Ash is Purest White) or Joanna Kulig (Cold War). Best Actor could go to any number of guys. Some have money on Andrew Garfield (Under the Silver Lake), Vincent Lindon (At War), Ah-in Yoo (Burning) and Marcello Fonte (Dogman). There are two child performances of note; Zain Al Rafeea for Capernaum and Ahmed Abdelhafiz for Yomeddine but this isn’t really a festival for kids. It would be a shock.
If Spike Lee doesn’t win the Palme or Director (boy, is he gonna mad if that happens) then he’s probably winning Screenplay. The Grand Prize and Jury Prize are loosely a 2nd and 3rd place but it’s not really that reductive. Any number of films from Cold War, The Wild Pear Tree (Ceylan just won the Palme two years ago for Winter Sleep) or The Image Book (Godard won the Jury Prize four years ago) could take those.
The Closing Ceremony of the 71st Cannes Film Festival will be tomorrow Saturday, May 19th. Follow my updates on Twitter as winners are announced as well as here on AwardsWatch.
Here are my official predictions:
Palme d’Or: Happy as Lazzaro, Alice Rohrwacher
Grand Prize: Burning, Lee Chang-Dong
Jury Prize: Capernaum, Nadine Labiki
Director: Spike Lee for BlacKkKlansman
Actor: Marcello Fonte for Dogman
Actress: Joanna Kulig for Cold War
Screenplay: Kore-Eda Hirokazu for Shoplifters