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Cannes 2024: Sean Baker's sex-worker love story 'Anora' wins coveted Palme d'Or

Sean Baker's 'Anora' wins the Palme d'Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival
Sean Baker's 'Anora' wins the Palme d'Or at the 77th Cannes Film Festival Copyright Vianney Le Caer/2024 Invision
Copyright Vianney Le Caer/2024 Invision
By David Mouriquand
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The US director collected the Best Film prize that he'd 'worked for all his life' and paid tribute to sex workers around the world.

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The 77th Cannes Film Festival has come to a close and American film Anora by Sean Baker has won this year’s Palme d’Or.

A favourite amongst audiences on the Croisette this year (and our top pick to win the Palme), Anora is Baker’s latest film following his Cannes-premiering films The Florida Project and Red Rocket.

The Jury, presided over by actor-director Greta Gerwig, selected Anora from 22 films in Competition this year – a particularly eclectic and vibrant selection. And the awards this year reflect this varied group of films. 

Baker dedicated his Palme to “all sex workers – past, present and future”. It is a kinetic New York City screwball comedy that shares the chaotic energy of the Safdie brothers’ Uncut Gems - a modern fairytale spin on Pretty Woman that doubles as a gut-punch tragedy about those who society chooses to marginalise and sets up to fail. The film drew attention for breakout performer Mikey Madison, and it’s a deserving prize for such a joyful and deceptively bleak film.

It is also worth mentioning that Anora was bought by US studio NEON, who have now won the Palme d’Or five consecutive times in a row after Parasite, Titane, Triangle of Sadness and Anatomy of a Fall. Considering the deals were struck before the festival, Anora ’s win once again makes them the official Palme d’Or whisperers.

Read our full review of Anora.

See the full winners list below.

The Grand Prix, the runner-up prize, went to All We Imagine As Light, the mesmerizing film by Payal Kapadia. A late-screened film about the connections between three Mumbai women of different ages is the first Indian film in Cannes Competition in 30 years – the last being Shaji Karun’s Swaham in 1994.

Emilia Pérez - winner of the Jury Prize and Best Actress awards
Emilia Pérez - winner of the Jury Prize and Best Actress awardsCannes Film Festival

French director Jacques Audiard won big this year, with his film Emilia Pérez winning two prizes - a rarity in Cannes, as films tend to only win one prize. 

Emilia Pérez won both the Jury Prize and the Best Actress prize, which was attributed to the ensemble cast of this Spanish-language musical: Zoé Saldaña, Karla Sofía Gascón, Selena Gomez, and cast. Gascón becomes the first transgender actress to win an acting prize in Cannes; she dedicated the award to the trans community. 

Audiard previously won the Palme d’Or in 2015 for Dheepan, and these two awards are richly deserved. The jury decision announced by Lily Gladstone said the film celebrated “the harmony of sisterhood”.

Read our review of Emilia Pérez.

The Best Director prize, presented by the great Wim Wenders, went to Portuguese director Miguel Gomes, for his poetic fever dream Grand Tour, about a British civil servant who flees his fiancée by hopping from one Asian country to the next. She attempts to track him down. It's hard to get on Grand Tour 's wavelength; however, patience yields rewards, as the film blends black-and-white segments with contemporary anthropological scenes, and culminates in a surprising and moving way.

The Seed of the Sacred Fig - winner of the Special Jury Prize
The Seed of the Sacred Fig - winner of the Special Jury PrizeCannes Film Festival

The jury created a special award – the Special Jury Prize - this year to honour Mohammad Rasoulof for his film The Seed of the Sacred Fig. The Iranian film was tipped as one of the favourites for the Palme d’Or and garnered the most enthusiastic reactions from attendees – as well as the longest-standing ovation at 15 minutes. However, it ended up with this special award. Rasoulof’s win was met with a standing ovation in the Theatre Lumière, where the director mentioned his cast and crew who are detained in Iran, those “who remain under the watchful eye of the totalitarian Iranian regime, which holds my people hostage.” The director also mentioned musician Toomaj Salehi, who has been sentenced to death in Iran for supporting nationwide protests sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini.

Read our full review of The Seed of the Sacred Fig.

Jesse Plemons won Best Actor for his triple role in Yorgos Lánthimos’ anthology film Kinds of Kindness. Sadly, the actor was not in attendance.

As we stated in our review: “The cast throughout are brilliant, with Plemons stealing the show, especially in the first two segments. Getting noticeably thinner with each chapter, he nails pathos, insecurity and menace, and makes it all look like a walk in the park. It’s like he’s been working with Lánthimos his whole life - and he may yet do, as both he and Stone have been confirmed as starring in Lánthimos’ next film, Bugonia.”

Read our full review of Kinds of Kindness.

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The Substance - winner of the Screenplay Prize
The Substance - winner of the Screenplay PrizeCannes Film Festival

Best Screenplay, presented by French actor Laurent Lafitte (who did a ChatGPT gag, at the expense of the AI platform to better celebrate the craft of screenwriting), was awarded to “the bold beautifully bonkers” The Substance by French director Coralie Fargeat. The director thanked lead actress Demi Moore and stressed how proud she was of the fruit of their collaboration.

The film, which many predicted to win a bigger prize during the ceremony, is a standout in this year’s Competition, a wild and gory ride.

In our review, we wrote: “In showing how the entertainment industry pushes women to extremes in order to remain employable, Frageat explores society’s impossible beauty standards, how certain medical industries weaponize their fetishization of youth for profit, as well as the internalised hatred stemming from systemic misogyny. It may not go particularly deep, but the savage form emphatically mirrors the content; the violence of disappearing in society’s eyes and the self-loathing that decries from this external trauma becoming internalised can only be expressed in an equally vicious way.”

Read our full review of The Substance.

All in all, a merited set of winners, with few upsets or major surprises, and a standing ovation for George Lucas, who was honoured this year with an honorary Palme - given to him by Francis Ford Coppola.

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George Lucas (left) receives an honorary Palme d'Or and a hug from Francis Ford Coppola
George Lucas (left) receives an honorary Palme d'Or and a hug from Francis Ford CoppolaAndreea Alexandru/2024 Invision

The full list of winners:

• Palme d’Or: Anora (Sean Baker)

• Grand Prix: All We Imagine As Light (Payal Kapadia)

• Jury Prize: Emilia Pérez (Jacques Audiard)

• Special Jury Prize: The Seed of the Sacred Fig (Mohammad Rasoulof)

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• Best Director: Miguel Gomes (Grand Tour)

• Best Actress: Ensemble for Emilia Pérez (Zoé Saldaña, Karla Sofía Gascón, Selena Gomez and cast)

• Best Actor: Jesse Plemons (Kinds of Kindness)

• Best Screenplay: The Substance (Coralie Fargeat)

Other prizes:

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• Camera d’Or: Armand (Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel)

• Camera d’Or Special Mention: Mongrel (Chiang Wei Liang and You Qiao Yin)

• Short Film Palme d’Or: The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent (Nebojša Slijepcevic)

• Short Film Special Mention: Bad For A Moment (Daniel Soares)

Click here for our full Cannes coverage, including news, reviews, videos and interviews.

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Stay tuned to Euronews Culture for a full debrief of the winning films and the key takeaways from this year’s 77th edition.

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