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By Hammad Zaidi | May 24, 2011

The 64th annual Cannes Film Festival was rocked by a scandal this past week, which may change how film festivals deal with unpredictable directors.  Meanwhile, the 52nd annual Cannes Film Market showed signs of life for independent films. So, this article is going to review the 2011 Cannes Film Festival and Film Market, and discuss what trends have emerged.

Banned In Cannes!
While I have never reported on a scandal in any of my columns, this one not only effects a film’s distribution, but it could have set a precedence of how film festivals deal with filmmakers.

In short, Lars von Trier, director of the official competition selection, “Melancholia,” was banned from Cannes after joking about being a Nazi and sympathizing with Hitler during a press conference last Wednesday. Needless to say, von Trier’s relationship with the world’s most powerful film festival has been deeply damaged, and the prospects of having his film distributed in the United States by a major distributor have just become unquestionably bleak.

The game-changing ban on von Trier may have set precedence for all film festivals worldwide, alerting filmmakers that their socially reprehensible actions may not be treated as creative idiosyncrasies any longer. While Lars von Trier’s rant was an isolated incident, its ripple effect could create a tidal wave of change in the film festival universe.

Good But Not Great
This year’s selections at Cannes looked like a home run derby on paper, with seasoned directors and A-List stars collaborating on wonderfully poignant productions. However, the reality of the films presented turned out to be a bunch of solid singles and a few doubles – but no home runs. Thus, “good, even solid, but not great” seems to be the sentiment amongst distributors worldwide. While the festival was void of a lightening rod of publicity, like “Pulp Fiction” (1994) or “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), enough good films were presented at Cannes to make it a worthy year of films presented.

Cannes Film Festival Winners
Since Cannes showcases films from around the world and isn’t just a vacation home for Hollywood’s productions, I thought it was important to list the winning films from Cannes 2011.

The Palme d’Or
The winner of Cannes’ most coveted award this year was Terrance Malick’s “The Tree Of Life.” The picture, which features Brad Pitt playing a father who alienates his son, includes long sequences of expanding galaxies, dinosaurs and exploding planets. Needless to say, many people were shocked by this win. But then, “shocking wins” entice publicity, and publicity is the lifeblood of festival. However, it’s too bad this publicity was overshadowed by the Lars von Trier scandal.  (United States)

Grand Prix
This award celebrated two winners:

“Once Upon A Time In Anatolia” by Nuri Bilge Ceylan.  (Turkey)

“The Kid With The Bike” by Jean-Pierre & Luc Dardenne (Belgium)

Best Director
“Drive” by Nicolas Winding Refn (Denmark)

Best Screenplay
“Footnote” by Joseph Cedar (Israel)

Best Actor
Jean Dujardin won the best actor award for “The Artist,” a black and white silent film that’s a re-make of another black and white silent film. (France)

Best Actress
This year’s Robert De Niro led film festival jury awarded Kirsten Dunst the best actress award for her portrayal in Lars Von Trier’s film, “Melancholia,” even though Von Trier himself was banned from the festival. (United States)

Jury Prize
“Poliss” by Maiween. (France)

Short Films In Competition

Palme d’Or
“Cross-Country” by Maryna Vroda. (Ukraine)

Jury Prize
“Swimsuit 46” by Wannes Destoop. (Belgium)

Camera D’Or
”Las Acacias” by Pablo Giorgelli.  (Argentina)

Un Certain Regard
*The following two films shared the award.

“Arirang” by KIM Ki-Duk. ?? (South Korea)

“Stopped on Track” by Andreas Dresen.  (Gera, German Democratic Republic of Germany)

Special Jury Prize
“Elana” by Andrey Zvyagintsev. (Russia)

Directing Prize
“Au revoir” by Mohammad Rasoulof. (Iran)

  • This filmmaker was convicted in Iran for “holding gatherings, conspiracy and propagandizing against the Iranian ruling system after the Iranian presidential election in June 2009.”
  • Thus, it’s amazing that his voice (and vision) is being heard on an international stage.


First Cinéfondation Prize
“The Letter” by Doroteya Droumeva, ?(Germany)

Second Cinéfondation Prize
“Drari” by Kamal Lazraq, La Fémis,  (France)

Third Cinéfondation Prize
“Fly by Night” by Son Tae-gyum, ?Chung-Ang University, (South Korea)

Upon closer review of the award winners listed above, one key trend emerging from the Cannes Film Festival is that the selection committee and jury awarded deserving filmmakers from multiple countries. In fact, only two Americans won awards this year, director Terrence Malick for his Palme d’Or winning film, “The Tree Of Life,” and actress Kirsten Dunst for her performance in “Melancholia.” Thus, Cannes truly is the biggest stage on the planet.

The Sun Also Rises At The Cannes Film Market
Last year’s Cannes Film Market was so devastatingly putrid, that the usually boisterous Palais was a ghost town by the first Sunday (four days into the 10 day market).

However this year the market made an Ashton Kutcher comeback, as it enjoyed heavy foot traffic, a sea of buyer meetings and a promise of healthier sales. I say “promise” because unlike previous years when multiple deals would be closed on-the-spot on a daily basis, these days deals are closed three to four weeks after the market ends.

Call it the economy, the current business climate, or the fact these days cash flow is like a winning lottery ticket – something almost nobody has. Whatever you wish to call it, one thing is for sure: things are getting better. While it’s not time to pop open a bottle of Dom and rejoice the end of the indie film sales crises yet, this year’s Cannes Film Market has definitely given us reason to smile.

Like always, I thank you for lending me your eyes, and I hope to borrow them again next Tuesday. In the meantime, have an amazingly relaxing holiday weekend.

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  1. Bwakathaboom says:

    As far as I can tell he’s only banned from the festival but his films can still technically appear in the market. I don’t think it’s even within the committee’s powers to say whether distributors can or can’t rep a particular film at the market.

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