Anora, tale of a stripper who marries a Russian oligarch, wins Palme d’Or at Cannes

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Anora, a tragi-comic modern-day Cinderella story about a stripper who marries a multimillionare, made by the American director Sean Baker, has won the coveted Palme d’Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival.

Baker, 53, dedicated the award to “all sex workers past and present” as he accepted the honour from the Star Wars creator George Lucas in front of an audience of stars gathered in the Palais des Festivals on the Cote D’Azur.

And for Baker it really was a coveted prize. “This literally has been my singular goal as a film-maker for the past 30 years,” he said, going on to thank his leading actor Mikey Madison, who plays Ani, a Brooklyn call girl whose life changes into a fairy tale and then into a nightmare after she meets the son of a Russian oligarch who wants to make her his wife.

Greta Gerwig, who headed the panel that judged the main feature film award, praised the humanity in Anora as she declared it the winner. “It captured our hearts and lets us laugh and then broke our hearts,” the Barbie director added.

Baker admitted he was shaking, and then spoke with passion about the importance of seeing films in the cinema rather than at home or on a phone screen.

Sean Baker, right, holds the Palme d’Or for the film Anora, alongside George Lucas on Saturday.View image in fullscreen

Anora had been a favourite to take the prize, although it had some competition from an unlikely Spanish-language musical, Emilia Pérez, directed by the French film-maker Jacques Audiard. The film did not take the Palme, but was acknowledged with the unusual choice of giving the best acting prize to an ensemble of female cast, including the first trans woman actor to be honoured with this award. Karla Sofía Gascón shared her prize with co-stars Adriana Paz, Zoe Saldaña and Selena Gomez. The best actor award went to Jesse Plemons who starred alongside Emma Stone in Yorgos Lanthimos’s brutal anthology film, Kinds of Kindness.

The Grand Prix went to a young female Indian director, 38-year-old Payal Kapadia from Mumbai, who received her award from Viola Davis for her film All We Imagine As Light. A lyrical tale of affection and loss, it delighted critics in the second week of the festival as it tracks the lives of three provincial nurses who find themselves adrift in the city. Payal told the audience she wanted the message of “solidarity” among women to emerge from her film, adding it was a “value we should all be striving for”.

Miguel Gomes won the best director prize for Grand Tour, while the Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof, who fled a prison sentence in his native land to attend the festival, was given a special award in recognition of his bravery and his film, The Seed of the Sacred Fig.

The French director Coralie Fargeat had been seen as in contention for the top prize with her American film The Substance, starring Demi Moore and Margaret Qualley, but in the end she left the ceremony holding the award for best screenplay in acknowledgement of her striking feminist story about the cruel politics of ageing for a woman in the public eye.

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Lucas was in Cannes for the closing ceremony to receive an honorary Palme d’Or for his contribution to world cinema. After a montage of the famous moments from his many well-loved films from the Star Wars franchise and American Graffiti, to Willow and Labyrinth, and a long standing ovation, he took his award from his old friend, the equally celebrated American director Francis Ford Coppola, who premiered his latest film Megalopolis at the opening of the festival. “It is a real honour to be here,” said Lucas, “and to receive the award from a great friend and a brother and a mentor.”

Other winners on the night were the director Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel, who took the Camera d’Or for his first film, Armand. (A special mention in this category went to Mongrel, directed by Wei Liang Chiang & You Qiao Yin). The Short Film Palme d’Or went to The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent, directed by Nebojša Slijepčević, and there was a special mention for Daniel Soares’ Bad For A Moment.


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