Sean Baker's “Anora” wins the Palme d'Or, the Cannes Film Festival's highest honor

Sean Baker's “Anora,” a comic yet devastating Brooklyn odyssey about a sex worker who marries the son of a wealthy Russian oligarch, won the prize Cannes Film Festivals highest award, the Palme d'Or.

Baker accepted the award as his movie star Mikey Madison watched in the audience at the Cannes closing ceremony on Saturday. The win for “Anora” marks a new high for Baker, director of “The Florida Project.” It is also, remarkably, the fifth Palme d'Or in a row that indie distributor Neon has won, following 'Parasite', 'Titane', 'Triangle of Sadness' and last year's winner 'Anatomy of a Fall'.

“This has literally been my sole purpose as a filmmaker for the last thirty years, so I'm not really sure what I'm going to do for the rest of my life,” Baker said with a laugh.

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American director Sean Baker poses with the trophy during a photocall after winning the Palme d'Or for the film “Anora” during the closing ceremony at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes on May 25, 2024.

LOIC VENANCE/AFP via Getty Images


But Baker, the first American filmmaker to win the Palm since Terrence Mallick in 2012 for “The Tree of Life,” quickly responded that his ambition would continue to be “fighting to keep cinema alive.” The 53-year-old director said the world needed to be reminded that “watching a movie at home while scrolling through your phone, answering emails and half-paying attention is just not the way, although some tech companies would like us to think so. “

“So I say the future of cinema is where it started: in a movie theater,” Baker said.

While “Anora” was perhaps the festival's most critically acclaimed film, its win was a bit of a surprise. Many expected the gentle Indian drama “All We Imagine As Light” or the Iranian film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig” to win. Both films also took home prizes.

However, it was not the only shock of the closing ceremony. Before George Lucas was presented with an honorary Palme d'Or, his longtime friend and sometime collaborator Francis Ford Coppola appeared to present it to him, reuniting two of the most pivotal figures of the last half-century of American filmmaking.

Red Carpet Closing Ceremony - The 77th Annual Cannes Film Festival
George Lucas and Mellody Hobson attend the red carpet of the closing ceremony at the 77th annual Cannes Film Festival at Palais des Festivals on May 25, 2024 in Cannes, France.

Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images


“All We Imagine As Light,” about sisterhood in modern Mumbai, won the Grand Prix, Cannes's second-highest award. Payal Kapadia's second feature was the first Indian in thirty years to compete at Cannes.

The jury awarded a special prize to Mohammad Rasoulof's 'The Seed of the Sacred Fig', a drama secretly made in Iran. Days before the film's premiere, Rasoulof, who faced an eight-year prison sentence, fled Iran on foot. His film, with real footage of the 2022-2023 demonstrations in Iran, channels Iranian oppression into a family drama. The Cannes audience received an emotional Rasoulof with a lengthy standing ovation.

Coralie Fargeat's horror film 'The Substance', starring Demi Moore as a Hollywood actress who goes to gory extremes to stay young, won the award for best screenplay.

“I truly believe that movies can change the world, so I hope this film will be a small stone to build a new foundation,” said Fargeat. “I really think we need a revolution, but I don't think it has really started yet.”

Some thought Moore might win best actress, but that award instead went to an ensemble of actors: Karla Sofía Gascón, Zoe Saldaña, Selena Gomez and Adriana Paz for Jacques Audiard's “Emilia Perez,” a Spanish-language musical about a Mexican drug lord going into transition. to a woman. Gascón, who accepted the award, is the first trans actor to win a major award at Cannes.

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Spanish actress Karla Sofia Gascon poses after she and the rest of the female cast won the Best Actress award for her role in the film “Emilia Perez” during the closing ceremony at the 77th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, South France, on May 25, 2024.

SAMEER AL-DOUMY/AFP via Getty Images


“Emilia Perez” also won the Cannes Jury Prize, earning a rare two awards at a festival where prizes are usually spread out.

Best actor went to Jesse Plemons for 'Kinds of Kindness' by Yorgos Lanthimos. The film tells three stories with largely the same company of actors. Plemons, a highlight of several chapters, was not present at the closing ceremony.

Portuguese director Miguel Gomes won the award for best director for his 'Grand Tour', an Asian odyssey in which a man flees his fiancée from Rangoon in 1917.

“Sometimes I'm lucky,” Gomes shrugged.

The Camera d'Or, the award for the best first feature in all official Cannes selections, went to Halfdan Ullmann Tøndel for 'Armand', starring 'The Worst Person in the World' star Renate Reinsve. Tøndel is the grandson of Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman and Norwegian actor Liv Ullman.

During the short awards ceremony, Lucas would receive an honorary Palme d'Or. During the festival, Cannes paid a similar tribute to Meryl Streep and the Japanese anime factory Studio Ghibli.

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