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‘Shoplifters’, ‘BlacKkKlansman’, ‘Girl’ among top winners at Cannes Film Festival

Directing legend Jean-Luc Godard gets a special Palme d’Or for ‘The Image Book’.

Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda’s Shoplifters, about a family’s struggle to survive on the margins of the economy, won the Palme d’Or, the highest award at the Cannes Film Festival, on Saturday.

Kore-eda has been steadily wooing the arthouse circuit over the past few years with his films Nobody Knows, Our Little Sister, After the Storm, and The Third Murder. The official synopsis for his latest movie to explore the strains on the Japanese family is as follows: “After one of their shoplifting sessions, Osamu and his son come across a little girl in the freezing cold. At first reluctant to shelter the girl, Osamu’s wife agrees to take care of her after learning of the hardships she faces. Although the family is poor, barely making enough money to survive through petty crime, they seem to live happily together until an unforeseen incident reveals hidden secrets, testing the bonds that unite them…”


Shoplifters upset the other big Asian title at the festival, Korean director Lee Chang-dong’s Burning. Based on Haraki Murakami’s short story Barn Burning, Lee’s film was widely tipped to win the top honour. Lee has previously won a best screenplay award at Cannes for Poetry in 2010, and his Oasis was nominated for the top award at the Venice Film Festival in 2003.


The Competition section comprised 21 titles. The jury, headed by Cate Blanchett, handed over the second most important prize of the festival, the Grand Prix, to another favourite, Spike Lee’s comedy BlacKkKlansman. This is Lee’s first win at the prestigious festival.

In BlacKkKlansman, based on Ron Stallworth’s 2014 memoir Black Klansman, an African American detective (John David Washington) infiltrates a Ku Klux Klan group and becomes its leader. The cast includes Adam Driver and Topher Grace. The premiere at Cannes reportedly received a 10-minute standing ovation. The movie will be released on August 10 in the United States of America, to coincide with the first anniversary of the riots triggered by a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.


A Special Palme d’Or was awarded to the legendary Jean-Luc Godard for The Image Book, his first film since Goodbye to Language (2014). The Image Book is “an essay film examining the role of cinema in world history”, Screen International reported, and will be the 87-year-old director’s “first UK theatrical roll-out in seven years”.

The best director award went to Pawel Pawlikowski (Ida, 2013) for Cold War, which explores the tempestuous relationship between a pianist and a singer between the 1940s and the ’60s.

Cold War.

The best first feature award, the Camera d’Or, went to Lukas Dhont’s Girl, about an aspiring 15-year-old ballerina who is trapped in a male body. The Belgian movie also won its 16-year-old male lead Victor Polster the best actor award in the Un Certain Regard section. “Victor showed that the most important tool for any artist is empathy,” Dhont said while accepting the award on behalf of Polster.

Girl won the Queer Palm, or the top award for queer-themed films, making it the most decorated title of the festival.


The Jury Prize went to Lebanese director Nadine Labaki’s warmly received third feature Capernaum, about a 12-year-old boy who sues his parents for bringing him into the world.

Alice Rohrwacher and Nader Saeivar shared the best screenplay for Happy As Lazarro (a magic realist fable revolving around a staged kidnapping) and 3 Faces (a road movie involving three generations of actresses). 3 Faces is Jafar Panahi’s fourth production since he was banned from filmmaking by the Iranian government.

The best actress award went to Samal Yeslyamova from Sergey Dvortsevoy’s Ayka. The Russian-Kazakhstani drama follows an illegal worker in Moscow who sets out to find her illegitimate son, whom she abandoned at birth.

Marcello Fonte won the best actor prize for Italian director Matteo Garrone’s Dogman, based on the true story of a dog groomer who is also a cocaine dealer.

Charles Williams’s All These Creatures was named the Best Short Film.


Un Certain Regard awards

Awards in the Un Certain Regard section were handed out on Friday. One Indian production was selected for the second most important category of films at Cannes – Nandita Das’s biopic Manto. Ali Abbasi’s Border won the top prize in the category. Variety described the “classification-defying film” as centring on “a Swedish customs officer with an uncanny sense of smell” who is “thrown into a moral and personal quandary over a suspicious traveler that upends the world as she knows it”.

The Best Director award was won by Ukrainian filmmaker Sergei Loznitsa’s Donbass. Loznitsa, the director of 2016’s acclaimed A Gentle Creature, explores the impact of propaganda and fake news in eastern Ukraine.

The best screenplay prize in this section went to Moroccan director Meryem Benm’Barek’s Sofia, about a 20-year-old woman who faces prosecution for bearing a child out of wedlock. The Special Jury Prize went to Joao Salaviza and Renee Nader Messora’s The Dead and the Others, which explores mythology and indigenous traditions in north Brazil.

The Un Certain Regard jury was headed by Benicio Del Toro.

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Swara Bhasker: Sharp objects has to be on the radar of every woman who is tired of being “nice”

The actress weighs in on what she loves about the show.

This article has been written by award-winning actor Swara Bhasker.

All women growing up in India, South Asia, or anywhere in the world frankly; will remember in some form or the other that gentle girlhood admonishing, “Nice girls don’t do that.” I kept recalling that gently reasoned reproach as I watched Sharp Objects (you can catch it on Hotstar Premium). Adapted from the author of Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn’s debut novel Sharp Objects has been directed by Jean-Marc Vallée, who has my heart since he gave us Big Little Lies. It stars the multiple-Oscar nominee Amy Adams, who delivers a searing performance as Camille Preaker; and Patricia Clarkson, who is magnetic as the dominating and dark Adora Crellin. As an actress myself, it felt great to watch a show driven by its female performers.

The series is woven around a troubled, alcohol-dependent, self-harming, female journalist Camille (single and in her thirties incidentally) who returns to the small town of her birth and childhood, Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on two similarly gruesome murders of teenage girls. While the series is a murder mystery, it equally delves into the psychology, not just of the principal characters, but also of the town, and thus a culture as a whole.

There is a lot that impresses in Sharp Objects — the manner in which the storytelling gently unwraps a plot that is dark, disturbing and shocking, the stellar and crafty control that Jean-Marc Vallée exercises on his narrative, the cinematography that is fluid and still manages to suggest that something sinister lurks within Wind Gap, the editing which keeps this narrative languid yet sharp and consistently evokes a haunting sensation.

Sharp Objects is also liberating (apart from its positive performance on Bechdel parameters) as content — for female actors and for audiences in giving us female centric and female driven shows that do not bear the burden of providing either role-models or even uplifting messages. 

Instead, it presents a world where women are dangerous and dysfunctional but very real — a world where women are neither pure victims, nor pure aggressors. A world where they occupy the grey areas, complex and contradictory as agents in a power play, in which they control some reigns too.

But to me personally, and perhaps to many young women viewers across the world, what makes Sharp Objects particularly impactful, perhaps almost poignant, is the manner in which it unravels the whole idea, the culture, the entire psychology of that childhood admonishment “Nice girls don’t do that.” Sharp Objects explores the sinister and dark possibilities of what the corollary of that thinking could be.

“Nice girls don’t do that.”

“Who does?”

“Bad girls.”

“So I’m a bad girl.”

“You shouldn’t be a bad girl.”

“Why not?”

“Bad girls get in trouble.”

“What trouble? What happens to bad girls?”

“Bad things.”

“What bad things?”

“Very bad things.”

“How bad?”


“Like what?”


A point the show makes early on is that both the victims of the introductory brutal murders were not your typically nice girly-girls. Camille, the traumatised protagonist carrying a burden from her past was herself not a nice girl. Amma, her deceptive half-sister manipulates the nice girl act to defy her controlling mother. But perhaps the most incisive critique on the whole ‘Be a nice girl’ culture, in fact the whole ‘nice’ culture — nice folks, nice manners, nice homes, nice towns — comes in the form of Adora’s character and the manner in which beneath the whole veneer of nice, a whole town is complicit in damning secrets and not-so-nice acts. At one point early on in the show, Adora tells her firstborn Camille, with whom she has a strained relationship (to put it mildly), “I just want things to be nice with us but maybe I don’t know how..” Interestingly it is this very notion of ‘nice’ that becomes the most oppressive and deceptive experience of young Camille, and later Amma’s growing years.

This ‘Culture of Nice’ is in fact the pervasive ‘Culture of Silence’ that women all over the world, particularly in India, are all too familiar with. 

It takes different forms, but always towards the same goal — to silence the not-so-nice details of what the experiences; sometimes intimate experiences of women might be. This Culture of Silence is propagated from the child’s earliest experience of being parented by society in general. Amongst the values that girls receive in our early years — apart from those of being obedient, dutiful, respectful, homely — we also receive the twin headed Chimera in the form of shame and guilt.

“Have some shame!”

“Oh for shame!”




“Do not bring shame upon…”

Different phrases in different languages, but always with the same implication. Shameful things happen to girls who are not nice and that brings ‘shame’ on the family or everyone associated with the girl. And nice folks do not talk about these things. Nice folks go on as if nothing has happened.

It is this culture of silence that women across the world today, are calling out in many different ways. Whether it is the #MeToo movement or a show like Sharp Objects; or on a lighter and happier note, even a film like Veere Di Wedding punctures this culture of silence, quite simply by refusing to be silenced and saying the not-nice things, or depicting the so called ‘unspeakable’ things that could happen to girls. By talking about the unspeakable, you rob it of the power to shame you; you disallow the ‘Culture of Nice’ to erase your experience. You stand up for yourself and you build your own identity.

And this to me is the most liberating aspect of being an actor, and even just a girl at a time when shows like Sharp Objects and Big Little Lies (another great show on Hotstar Premium), and films like Veere Di Wedding and Anaarkali Of Aarah are being made.

The next time I hear someone say, “Nice girls don’t do that!”, I know what I’m going to say — I don’t give a shit about nice. I’m just a girl! And that’s okay!

Swara is a an award winning actor of the Hindi film industry. Her last few films, including Veere Di Wedding, Anaarkali of Aaraah and Nil Battey Sannata have earned her both critical and commercial success. Swara is an occasional writer of articles and opinion pieces. The occasions are frequent :).

Watch the trailer of Sharp Objects here:


This article was published by the Scroll marketing team with Swara Bhasker on behalf of Hotstar Premium and not by the Scroll editorial team.