CANNES FILM FESTIVAL: Ken Loach has joined the elite club of filmmakers with two Palmes d’Or to their name, in winning the top award of the Cannes Film Festival for I, Daniel Blake overnight.
Loach’s film screened early in the 11-day competition and was a sentimental favourite, for its emotional story of a battler with a heart condition, who is rejected for health benefits.
In accepting the prize, Loach used the spotlight to draw attention to the “millions of people in serious hardship” as a result of government austerity measures.
“The world we live in is at a dangerous point just now, “ he said. “We’re in the grip of a project of austerity driven by ideas we call ‘neo-liberalism’, that have brought us to near catastrophe.”
80 year-old Loach’s win is his second Palme d’Or (since his 2006 win for The Wind That Shakes the Barley). He has won 10 other prizes at Cannes throughout his 50-year career.
In a press conference following the award ceremony, the nine-member jury led by Australian director Dr George Miller attested to the "rigorous and vigorous" deliberation process that resulted in them awarding the prize to Loach.
Juror Donald Sutherland rejected a suggestion that I, Daniel Blake's bleak subject matter made it stand out against the glitz of the French Riviera. "The movie was just an absolutely terrific movie," he said. "It’s irrelevant where you are. You’re in a cinema."
The jury's choices went against the critics' picks. Miller said they had all "avoided at looking at what other people were saying".
"I think [the choices] represented what the people in the room were thinking on response to the films they saw. It really was like going to film school. It’s such a privilege to be passionately earnestly talking about cinema in this way."
With three films by female directors in contention for prizes, and a strong range of female characters in the field, Miller was asked about his and the jury's thoughts about female representation.
"Each film was judged on its merits," he said. There wasn’t a specific conversation about whether it should go to this type of film because it was a woman or not. Filmmaking is filmmaking and it didn’t really come up as a specific thing, we were looking at other issues. I agree there are an extraordinary number of fine performances by female actors."
Fellow juror Mads Mikkelsen continued; "There are places where that is really, really up for debate. We pray and hope that people have been not selected for competition because they are a man or a woman or [because of] something else. We take it for granted that the selected films are nominated because of their qualities."
THE FULL LIST OF WINNERS
Ken Loach, I , Daniel Blake
Xavier Dolan, It's Only the End of the World
Christian Mungiu, Graduation
Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper
Andrea Arnold, American Honey
Jaclyn Rose, Ma' Rosa
Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman
Asghar Farhadi, The Salesman