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Politically charged Cannes heads to awards night

Demi Moore is a front runner for the acting award for body horror 'The Substance'
Demi Moore is a front runner for the acting award for body horror 'The Substance' - Copyright AFP Stefano Rellandini
Demi Moore is a front runner for the acting award for body horror 'The Substance' - Copyright AFP Stefano Rellandini

The 77th Cannes Film Festival draws to a close Saturday after a politically charged edition full of blood and feminism. 

Emotions ran high Friday on the final day of screenings, when Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof premiered his film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” after escaping a prison sentence in his home country just days before the festival.

It was among the last of 22 entries competing for the Palme d’Or, the top prize of the world’s leading film get-together. 

Attention now turns to the jury, led by “Barbie” director Greta Gerwig, which will deliver its verdicts at the closing ceremony late Saturday. 

After a slow start to the festival, with middling reviews for early entries, the race picked up in the closing days.

Many are betting the winner will be a highly original musical about a Mexican narco boss having a sex change, “Emilia Perez”, by French director Jacques Audiard, who already has a Palme under his belt.

It has stiff competition from “Anora” by US indie director Sean Baker. 

Critics have loved his raw and often-hilarious story about a New York erotic dancer who strikes gold with a wealthy client, only to face the wrath of his Russian oligarch parents.

Its star, 25-year-old Mikey Madison, could be a contender for best actress.

But many think that could go to comeback-queen Demi Moore after rave reviews for her “fearless” performance in “The Substance”, an ultra-gory horror film about the pressures women face to maintain bodily perfection as they age.

There was a notable paucity of meaty roles for men this year. 

Many were impressed by Sebastian Stan’s turn as Donald Trump in “The Apprentice”, a surprisingly nuanced biopic about the ex-president’s formative years, that also featured a terrific turn from “Succession” star Jeremy Strong as Trump’s mentor-lawyer Roy Cohn. 

It has not gone down well with Trump’s real-life team, who called the movie “garbage” and threatened to sue over its depiction of him raping his wife, suffering erectile dysfunction, and ruthlessly betraying those around him.

A late dark horse is “All We Imagine as Light”, the first Indian entry in 30 years.

It is a poetic monsoon-set portrayal of two nurses who have migrated to Mumbai, described as a dreamlike five-star “triumph” by The Guardian.

– ‘Powerful indictment’ –

It seems almost guaranteed that Rasoulof will get some sort of prize for “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”, which tells the story of a court investigator whose family life is torn apart by the “Women, Life, Freedom” protests that convulsed the country in 2022-23.

Critics described it as a “deeply upsetting masterwork” (IndieWire) and a “powerful indictment of Iranian oppression” (The Hollywood Reporter).

Rasoulof, who has been imprisoned in the past for his uncompromising films, came under pressure in Iran to withdraw from the festival.

But he already knew during production that he faced a new eight-year prison sentence for “collusion against national security” and hatched a plan to escape the country, announcing he was free just one day before Cannes started last week.

“I hope the entire apparatus of oppression and dictatorship will disappear from Iran,” he told the packed Cannes theatre, where he brandished photos of the movie’s actors and received a long standing ovation.

Written By

With 2,400 staff representing 100 different nationalities, AFP covers the world as a leading global news agency. AFP provides fast, comprehensive and verified coverage of the issues affecting our daily lives.

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