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Henry M. Robert

“Poor of hearing regarded the screening of our film at Cannes as their own victory”

Ukrainian movie The Tribe won three International Critics’ Week awards and became one of the festival’s sensations
28 May, 2014 - 17:56
THE TURKISH FILM WINTER SLEEP DIRECTED BY NURI BILGE CEYLAN WON THE PALME D’OR AT THE 67TH CANNES FESTIVAL. THE WINNER RECEIVED THE PRIZE FROM UMA THURMAN AND QUENTIN TARANTINO / REUTERS photo
THE FILM LEVIATHAN DIRECTED BY ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV (RUSSIA) WAS AWARED THE BEST SCREENPLAY PRIZE

Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Winter Sleep won Palme d’Or (his previous production won Grand Prix, the second most prestigious award), and a FIPRESCI award. This is a three-hour story about an ex-actor, now a countryside innkeeper. Ceylan says the plot was inspired by Anton Chekhov’s stories. Grand Prix went to the Italian producer, Alice Rorhwacher’s The Wonders (a story about a farmer’s family). Russian Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Leviathan won the best screenplay award (much to the chagrin of Putin’s minister of culture), and Bennet Miller (US) was proclaimed the Best Director for his Foxcatcher (a sports drama based on actual events when the millionaire DuPont murders the coach of an Olympic wrestling team). The jury returned a scandalous verdict on an award shared by two absolutely different productions: Mommy by the youngest contender, 25-year-old Canadian Quebecker Xavier Dolan, and Goodbye to Language by the oldest one Jean-Luc Godard. Whereas the first story is about commonplace complicated relationships between a mother and her mentally unbalanced teenaged son, the second one is another 83-year-old filmmaking patriarch’s brilliant experiment, a head-spinning sophisticated collage of quotes, dramatized scenes and ones from real life – all in 3D format! Godard, the founder of the “New Wave” in the French cinema, has never received a single prestigious Cannes award, yet his very participation in the competition should serve as one for any film festival.

Julianne Moore (US) was recognized as the Best Actress (she impersonates an aging ecstatic movie star) in the Canadian David Cronenberg’s black comedy Maps to the Stars about Hollywood morals. Timothy Spall was proclaimed the Best Actor for his role as the British classic artist William Turner in a production by Michael Leigh Mr. Turner.

The Dardenne brothers, winners of two Palmes d’Or, won nothing this year, although their Two Days, One Night was believed a major contender.

And this year’s Cannes marked a triumph for Ukraine as the International Critics’ Week conferred the Visionary Award on Kyivite Myroslav Slaboshpytsky’s full-length motion picture The Tribe, along with the Gan Foundation Support for Distribution award worth 20,000 for screening the film in France (it will have to be released there within the two following years).

Myroslav told me about the way the film was received in Cannes and the award ceremony: “The Tribe was screened seven times during the International Critics’ Week and people stood in long lines to watch it. Newspaper headlines like ‘Scandal on Croisette’ or ‘Croisette Shock’ added fuel to the fire. The first screening was attended by members of a French association of people with affected hearing and so the organizers hired two interpreters who knew the Russian and French sign languages. They translated my address to the audience. That was a real show! The first screening took place on May 21. I was in the audience and marveled at the equipment – and throughout the screening the audience remained silent. The last but one scene appeared to have the strongest effect. Sitting in front of me was a jury made up of young people (they would give us the Visionary Award), and as I watched, a female jury member turned away from the screen and buried her face in her hands. I thought we could kiss the award goodbye and said so at the organizing committee. They said, ‘Who knows?’ After the lights went on, the audience applauded, but then people left looking somewhat bewildered.

“The award ceremony was funny. Usually the laureates receive a hint before it. But hearing my name from the podium took me completely by surprise, I swear. Our press service later admitted that they suspected something, but did not know what would happen, so they told us nothing, just insisted that we dress properly for the occasion. We were allocated seats away from the podium and I told myself: another bad sign. And then we found ourselves there, receiving 20,000 euros. That was great, but the award was not for the film, just for its screening abroad. I got back to my seat and then Rebecca Zlotowski [French film director and scriptwriter. – Author] took the floor as president of the youth jury. She spoke about Cannes as a festival that is open to various dialects, languages, and then our press service girls started grabbing me by the shoulders and I finally realized what was happening. I heard The Tribe, received the Visionary Award and spoke a few words in my horrible English. Then Rebecca kissed me on the cheek, and that was especially good because she is a stunning beauty. I got back to my seat and figured that was the end of it.

“And then Andrea Arnold [British actress, director, winner of the 2006 Cannes Jury Award. – Author] appeared on the podium. I wasn’t paying much attention; I had two prizes and could rest on the laurels, so I didn’t understand why the media people sitting behind me started yelling. Andrea was speaking on the podium, but everyone in the audience turned and looked at me, laughing. The girls were nudging, saying c’mon, get up and go there. So Yana and I started walking toward the podium and we were almost there when Andrea said, ‘Please, let me finish.’ And then she said: ‘The Tribe, Ukraine.’ We stepped on the podium with Yana saying something in her sign language and crying. I was dumbfounded and told Andrea I’d watched her film on a pirate site, she said thanks a lot, with the audience laughing, then I picked Yana in my arms and took her away from the podium. A very moving scene. Good thing that she weighed just 48 kilos, but I was afraid we’d both fall. And an even better thing was that she became a movie star, the French had paid for her air ticket so she could attend the premiere. She did and enchanted everyone. They asked for autographs and there was a magazine interview. She has been invited to attend a premiere in Paris and then to visit Japan. From what I know, people with affected hearing responded to the very screening of the film in Cannes as their own victory. What made me especially happy was that The Tribe won three out of four of the International Critics’ Week awards, for the first time in its history. One might describe the whole thing as a scandalous award for a scandalous film.

“There was another award: good press. The Times gave the film five stars and there were praising reviews in The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. Other critics wrote about alchemy, that the film is addictive, that Cannes is known for its good champagne and glamorous audiences, but that The Tribe reminded what that festival is actually all about.

This film will be released in Ukraine in September.

By Dmytro DESIATERYK, The Day
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