Cannes Film Festival 2019: the Palme d’Or goes to “Parasite”, the Grand Prix to “Atlantique”

During the awards night of May 25, as the prizes were awarded – and in Cannes when a prize is awarded to a film, it must be satisfied with it, because it is forbidden to accumulate them – , we ended up wondering if 2019 would be the year of the first Palm granted by right to a director. As a reminder, in 1994, Jane Campion shared hers with Chen Kaige. Only the Grand Prix and the Palme d’Or remained to be awarded. All the films represented on the armchairs of the Grand Théâtre Lumière, by their authors or their performers, had been awarded, with the exception of those by Franco-Senegalese Mati Diop and Korean Bong Joon-ho.

Finally the 72e edition will remain as the one that saw a Korean filmmaker win for the first time the supreme award. The jury chaired by Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu awarded the Palme d’Or to Parasite, Bong Joon-ho’s seventh feature film, a film of terror and ruthless dissection of Korean society. And Mati Diop received the Grand Prix, second trophy in the Cannes hierarchy, for Atlantic, an award which in the past has rewarded – as pointed out by Michael Moore, who presented it – Ingmar Bergman or Joseph Mankiewicz.

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The director of Babel and his jurors (Kelly Reichardt, Alice Rohrwacher, Maimouna N’Diaye, Robin Campillo, Yorgos Lanthimos, Elle Fanning, Pawel Pawlikowski and Enki Bilal) respected the intentions of Thierry Frémaux, general delegate of the Festival, and of his selectors, who had builds a blend of solid values ​​(Pedro Almodovar, Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, Ken Loach, Quentin Tarantino, Marco Bellocchio…) and new talents. In the first category, Young Ahmed, by the Dardenne brothers (Best director award), Pain and glory, by Pedro Almodovar (Interpretation Award for Antonio Banderas) or It Must Be Heaven by Elia Suleiman (Special Mention) were honored.

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“The round of looks”

Almost all of the other awards went to newcomers to the competition. Out of eight filmmakers who had never taken part in it, four were distinguished: Mati Diop, already cited, Jessica Hausner (Interpretation award to Emily Beecham for Little joe), Céline Sciamma (Screenplay Award for Portrait of the girl on fire), and Ladj Ly (Jury Prize for Wretched, shared with Bacurau by Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles).

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Céline Sciamma (center) during the climb of the steps of the closing ceremony, in Cannes, on May 25. The director received the Screenplay Award for her film “Portrait of the young girl on fire”.

It’s easier to build a lean years unanimous track record when a handful of films stand out. For this 72e edition, Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu and his comrades were forced to commit injustices: once again deprive Pedro Almodovar of Palme d’or, ignore The traitor, by Marco Bellocchio, thus leaving the Italian filmmaker empty-handed, as he has always returned from Cannes, to act as if the Once Upon a Time… in Hollywood did not exist (whatever one thinks from the bottom of the film), as if Xavier Dolan had not ended up with Matthias and Maxime.

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The rewards themselves can spark debate. On receiving her prize, Céline Sciamma said with a tiny touch of bitterness that he came when she was thinking of giving up her career as a screenwriter (and it is true that the enthusiasm of criticism, particularly Anglo-Saxon, could make him hope for better) and celebrated “The round of looks” which makes a film a collective work. Antonio Banderas received his trophy “In his own name and that of his character, who is called Salvador Mallo and who, it is no secret to anyone, is Pedro Almodovar”.

One additional year of reprieve

The fact remains that, reflecting all the films in competition, the prize list gives a fairly complete picture of cinema as it exists, outside or at the margins of the multinationals – studios or platforms – which govern it. The same jury, the same film buyers, the same journalists, the same moviegoers saw Quentin Tarantino’s enormous production, shot and projected on 35mm film with millions of dollars from a studio (Sony), by grace the unique status of its author (a director who is also a Hollywood star) and Atlantic, produced digitally in Dakar with fifty times less resources. The Festival has granted an additional year of reprieve for the fiction of the unity of cinema, from mass entertainment to experimentation.

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It was all the more easy to believe that the films presented in competition this year cultivated the same themes, whatever their geographical origin, their aesthetic lineage. In the futuristic London laboratories of Little joe as in Thiaroye, suburb of Dakar where is happening Atlantic, humans are possessed by forces that emanate from the woes of the planet. In the small Brazilian northeastern village of Bacurau as in the Korean megalopolis of Parasite, disputes and differences (of class, culture, etc.) turn into violent confrontations. This portrait of the world does not encourage optimism, and the speakers of this Cannes closing ceremony have multiplied the warnings: against the decay of democracy (the president of the jury), the ravages of misery on the body social (Ladj Ly), contempt for artists and creators (Kleber Mendonça Filho).

The film crew

No one has mentioned the dangers that threaten the cinema – the censorship which weighs more and more heavily, in Russia, in China and elsewhere, the disappearance on immense territories of the theaters which show something other than the products of mass consumption, the growing weight of forms of distribution which deprive cinema of its collective dimension. But everyone was thinking about it, and it will be necessary to evoke them, to face them, next year or the one after.

The winners of the Cannes Film Festival 2019


Palme d’Or : Parasite, from South Korean Bong Joon-ho

Grand Prize: Atlantic, by Franco-Senegalese Mati Diop

Jury Prize (tied) : Wretched, Frenchman Ladj Ly and Bacurau, Brazilians Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles

Director’s Award: the Belgians Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne for Young Ahmed

Best Actor Award: the Spaniard Antonio Banderas for Pain and Glory, by Pedro Almodovar

Best Actress Award: Anglo-American Emily Beecham for Little joe, by Jessica Hausner

Price of the scenario: Portrait of the girl on fire, by the French Céline Sciamma

Special mention from the jury: It Must Be Heaven, by the Palestinian Elia Suleiman

Golden Camera: Nuestras madres (Our Mothers), by Guatemalan César Diaz (presented at Critics’ Week)

Palme d’Or for the short film: The distance between the sky and us, from the Greek Vasilis Kekatos

Special mention of the short film: Monster god (Monstruo Dios), from Argentina Agustina San Martin


Price Un certain regard: The invisible life of Euridice Gusmão (A Vida Invisivel by Euridice Gusmão), by Brazilian Karim Aïnouz

Jury Prize: Will come the fire (O que arde), by Franco-Spanish Oliver Laxe

Interpretation award: the French Chiara Mastroianni for Room 212, by Christophe Honoré

Director’s Award: the Russian Kantemir Balagov for A tall girl (Beanpole)

Special Jury Prize: Freedom, by Catalan Albert Serra

Jury favorite (tied): My brother’s wife, from Quebecer Monia Chokri and The Climb, by the American Michael Angelo Covino

Special mention from the jury: Jeanne, by Frenchman Bruno Dumont


First price : Mano to mano, by Louise Courvoisier, CinéFabrique, France

Second prize: Hieu, by Richard Van, CalArts, USA

Third prize (tied): Ambience, by Wisam Al Jafari, Dar al-Kalima University College of Arts and Culture, Palestine and Duszyczka, by Barbara Rupik, PWSFTviT, Poland

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Cannes Film Festival 2019: the Palme d’Or goes to “Parasite”, the Grand Prix to “Atlantique”

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