Fahrenheit 9/11 wins tops Cannes prize

Fahrenheit 9/11 wins tops Cannes prize - 23rd May 2004
(Credit: The Sydney Morning Herald)

Cannes: US filmmaker Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, a scathing indictment of White House actions after the September 11 attacks, won the top prize today at the Cannes Film Festival.

Fahrenheit 9/11 was the first documentary to win Cannes' prestigious Palme d'Or since Jacques Cousteau's The Silent World in 1956.

"What have you done? I'm completely overwhelmed by this. Merci," Moore said after getting a standing ovation from the Cannes crowd.

The grand prize, the festival's second-place honour, went to South Korean filmmaker Park Chan-wook's Old Boy, a blood-soaked thriller about a man out for revenge after years of inexplicable imprisonment.

Moore was momentarily flabbergasted when he took the stage, a big difference from his fiery speech against US President George W. Bush when he won the best-documentary Academy Award for 2002's Bowling for Columbine.

"You have to understand, the last time I was on an awards stage, in Hollywood, all hell broke loose," Moore said.

The best-actress award went to China's Maggie Cheung for her role in Clean as a junkie trying to straighten out her life and regain custody of her young son after her rock star boyfriend dies of a drug overdose.

Fourteen-year-old Yagira Yuuya was named best actor for the Japanese film Nobody Knows, in which he plays the eldest of four siblings raised in isolation, who must take charge of the family when their mother leaves.

The directing and writing prizes went to French filmmakers. Tony Gatlif won the directing honor for Exiles, his road-trip movie about a couple on a sensual journey from France to Algeria.

Agnes Jaoui and her romantic partner, Jean-Pierre Bacri, won the screenplay award for Look at Me, their study in self-image centering on an overweight young woman who feels neglected by loved ones. Jaoui and Bacri also co-star.

Fahrenheit 9/11 took the prestigious Palme d'Or amid sharply divided Cannes moviegoers, who found a solid crop of good movies among the 19 entries in the festival's main competition but no great ones that rose to frontrunner status.

While Fahrenheit 9/11 was well-received by Cannes audiences, many critics felt it was inferior to Bowling for Columbine, which earned Moore a special prize at Cannes in 2002. Some critics had speculated that if Fahrenheit 9/11 won the top prize, it would be more for the film's politics than its cinematic value.

With Moore's customary blend of humour and horror, Fahrenheit 9/11 accuses the Bush camp of stealing the 2000 election, overlooking terrorism warnings before September 11 and fanning fears of more attacks to secure Americans' support for the Iraq war.

Moore appears on-screen far less in Fahrenheit 9/11 than in Bowling for Columbine or his other documentaries. The film relies largely on interviews, footage of US soldiers and war victims in Iraq, and archival footage of Bush.

Just back in Cannes after his daughter's college graduation in the United States, Moore dedicated the award to "my daughter and to all the children in America and Iraq and throughout the world who suffered through our actions".

Fahrenheit 9/11 made waves in the weeks leading up to Cannes after the Walt Disney Co refused to let sibsidiary Miramax release the film in the United States because of its political content. Miramax bosses Harvey and Bob Weinstein are negotiating to buy back the film and find another distributor, with hopes of landing it in theatres by Fourth of July weekend.

Quentin Tarantino headed the nine-member jury that handed out prizes in Cannes' main competition. Other jurors included actresses Kathleen Turner, Tilda Swinton and Emmanuelle Beart.

Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady - widely regarded by Cannes audiences as a snoozer for its elongated scenes of a man wandering a jungle alone, with no dialogue - won the festival's third-place jury prize.

Another jury prize went to Irma P. Hall for her role as an elderly Southern woman who foils a casino robbery, in the Coen brothers' crime comedy The Ladykillers, starring Tom Hanks as the heist's ringleader.

Keren Yedaya's Or, about a Tel Aviv prostitute in failing health and her teenage daughter, won the Golden Camera award for best film by a first-time director. The US-born Yedaya, who grew up in Israel, conducts lectures about the problems of prostitution for government officials and mental health professionals.

Earlier today, Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembene's Moolaade, an examination of the ritual of female circumcision that earned rave reviews, won the top prize in a secondary Cannes competition called Un Certain Regard.

The 12-day festival's closing film De-Lovely, Kevin Kline's musical biography of Cole Porter - screened immediately after the awards tonight. Kline and co-star Ashley Judd were then hosts at a concert party on the beach, introducing Sheryl Crow, Alanis Morissette, Natalie Cole and other singers from De-Lovely as they performed Porter tunes.

Cannes was to wrap up tomorrow with encore screenings of award winners and other key movies that played the festival, including a combined, four-hour version of both of Tarantino's Kill Bill installments.


Official websites

Cannes Film Festival

Michael Moore official website


Moore trouble brewing at Cannes - 12th May 2004


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