FESTIVALS: Asian & African Films Scoop Top Awards At Cannes

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Asian films and talent, in particular from Japan and Southeast Asia, had a lot to celebrate at this year’s edition of the Cannes Film Festival.

Japanese winners in Competition included Koji Yakusho, who was awarded best actor for his turn as a toilet cleaner in Wim Wenders’ German-Japan co-production Perfect Days, and Yuji Sakamoto, who took best screenplay for Monster, directed by Hirokazu Kore-eda, whose films rarely come away from the Croisette empty handed. Kore-eda won the Palme d’Or for Shoplifters in 2018 and was also in Cannes last year with Korean-language film Broker, which won best actor for Song Kang-ho.

Two debut features from Southeast Asia also won major awards – Malaysian filmmaker Amanda Nell Eu’s Tiger Stripes took the Grand Prize in Critics Week, while Inside The Yellow Cocoon Shell, from Vietnamese director Pham Thien An, which premiered in Directors Fortnight, scooped the Camera d’Or.

These two wins are no surprise to anyone who has been tracking the region, home to a growing band of internationally savvy filmmakers and producers, who have been able to realise their ambitions through co-production and a network of European and Southeast Asian regional funds. Indonesia is the latest country to join this funding nexus, announcing the launch of a matching grant scheme in Cannes.

And that was not all for Asian talent – France-based Vietnamese filmmaker Tran Anh Hung won best director in Competition with French production The Pot-Au-Feu (La Passion De Dodin Bouffant), while best actress went to Merve Dizdar for her turn in Turkish auteur Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s About Dry Grasses.

Africa did well in Un Certain Regard – the Jury Prize went to Moroccan filmmaker Kamal Lazraq’s debut Hounds, about a father and son caught up in a kidnapping plot; while best director went to Morocco’s Asmae El Moudir for documentary The Mother Of All Lies, about the 1981 bread riots in Casablanca. 

Also in Un Certain Regard, the New Voice Prize was clinched by Belgian-Congolese rapper Baloji for Omen; and the Freedom Prize went to Sudanese filmmaker Mohamed Kordofani’s Goodbye Julia

The Mother Of All Lies also won the Golden Eye documentary prize, jointly with another doc from an Arab woman filmmaker, Kaouther Ben Hania’s Four Daughters.