Surprises of surprises…a young independent filmmaker from neighbouring Thailand won the Palme D’or award at the recently concluded Cannes Film Festival.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, a surreal flick by Apitchatpong Weerasethakul, or Joe (his nickname amongst cineastes and friends) beat a host of big names to take home the coveted prize to Thailand.
The film depicts the story of a dying man who talks with the spirits of his late wife and his son.
How surreal is surreal? Well, in this movie, the son comes back as a talking monkey and another female character has an underwater copulation scene with a catfish.
The second place was awarded to Frenchman Xavier Beauvois's film Of Gods and Men, a drama about a group of monks from France facing terrorists in Northern Africa.
It was a good night for Asia who had five film competing for honors. South Korean director Hong Sang-soo’s “Ha Ha Ha” scooped the Un Certain Regard award. His fellow countryman, Lee Chang Dong, garnered the Best Screenplay award for Poetry.
Uncle Boonmee is only the sixth Asian film to win the top prize at Cannes in seven decades of the festival, and the first for more than 10 years.
The Jury Prize went to Canadian Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s film A Screaming Man, yet another portrait of a struggling father, this time in Chad, who puts his own welfare before that of his son as the country wrestles with civil war.
Mathieu Amalric, who directed and stars in Tournée (On Tour) as the manager of a burlesque dance troupe, took home the directing award.
What are interesting are the subject matters of the award winning movies. As you can gauge from short one liners of the movies that won awards, most were serious dramas covering the human spirit, will and triumphs.
Only one movie, Of Gods and Men, (though I haven’t seen it) sounds like a commercial venture – it’s about how a group of Catholic monks, in Algeria, fought Islamic terrorists and lost (according to the synopsis the monks were beheaded).
The others, especially Uncle Boonmee, were dramas whose directors have stamped their titles their own signature uniqueness and cinematic touch.
There’s surprisingly no films with mat rempits, hantus, slapstick comedy, bohsias, skirt chasing datuks and tansris and mamaks selling papadoms.
It took ten years for Joe to reach the pinnacle of cinema with this win. He previously tasted Cannes victory twice before with Blissfully Yours in 2004 (Jury Award) and with Tropical Malady that won him the Un Certain Regard honors in 2002.
With Malaysia’s current slate of mostly FINAS approved and backed titles and the eagerly awaited (NOT!!) Dua Alam movie financed by Dato Dr Rozaimie, when do you think we will grace the Cannes Film Festival? No, not win, just to be competing would be an achievement.
While we wait for Uwei’s magnum opus Hanyut to hit our screens in 2011/2012, we are left with a slate of comedy-monster-rempit movies to entertain outselves.
I truly don’t see much hope for Cannes success from Malay film directors to tell you the truth, but there is hope from the non-Malay filmmakers who have so far this year come out with movies like WooHoo, Ais Kacang Puppy Love and End of Daybreak (directed by a Malaysian).
I really don’t know what FINAS’s role is in promoting quality film that is good enough for Cannes success, but if the current titles are anything to judge by, they either have no role or are totally oblivious of what it takes to develop good cinema.