The 2016 Cannes Film Festival jury strayed from expectations Sunday evening, awarding the Palme d’Or to Ken Loach’s I, Daniel Blake over a number of films that fared better with audiences and critics, including German filmmaker Maren Ade’s Toni Erdmann and Paul Verhoeven’s Isabelle Huppert-starring Elle.
“We’re in the grip of a project of austerity,” the English director said in his acceptance speech, criticizing the society which inspired I, Daniel Blake’s tale of an aging carpenter battling both a heart condition and the injustices of a stifling bureaucracy. It’s Loach’s second time winning the festival’s top prize, taking home the honors in 2006 for The Wind that Shakes the Barley.
Of the 21 films in competition, only three were directed by women, and Ade’s Toni Erdmann, a nearly three-hour comedy about a man who attempts to bring his career-obsessed daughter back to reality through a series of pranks, appeared to be the breakout female-helmed feature following its press screening last week. As critical samplings show, Toni Erdmann received the best reviews of any competition title, though several Cannes attendees reported that Mad Max: Fury Road director George Miller, president of this year’s jury, was not a fan of Ade’s film:
The makeup of the Cannes jury changes from year to year, featuring a revolving door of film industry professionals, from A-list actresses (Nicole Kidman and Sienna Miller have served in the recent past) to international producers and directors. This year’s jury saw Miller, Kirsten Dunst, Donald Sutherland, Mads Mikkelsen, Arnaud Desplechin, Valeria Golino, László Nemes, Vanessa Paradis, and Katayoon Shahabi bestowing major Cannes awards upon several films that didn’t make a splash with critics on the Croisette, including Brilliante Mendoza’s Ma’ Rosa (Jaclyn Jose, Best Actress), and Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World (Gran Prix). The French-Canadian filmmaker received a tweet of congratulations from Jessica Chastain, who’s starring in his next movie, his first English feature, The Death and Life of John F. Donovan.
Though no female director has won the Palme d’Or since Jane Campion in 1993 (actresses Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos shared the prize with Blue Is the Warmest Color director Abdellatif Kechiche in 2013), Andrea Arnold’s Shia LaBeouf-starring American Honey, however, came close, winning the 2016 Jury Prize.
Ignored by the jury altogether, however, were Jim Jarmusch’s well-received drama Paterson and Kleber Mendonça Filho breakout Brazilian drama Aquarius, which many had tipped to win 65-year-old star Sonia Braga the Best Actress prize.
The full list of Cannes winners (per IndieWire):
Best Actress: Jaclyn Jose, Ma Rosa
Best Actor: Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman
Best Screenplay: Asghar Farhadi, The Salesman
Camera d’Or: Houda Benyamina, Divines
Queer Palm (Feature): Sébastien Lifshitz, Les Vies de Thérèse
Queer Palm (Short): Anna Cazenave-Cambet, Gabber Lover