Seventy Years of Cannes: Dheepan in 2015

I’m capping off my weeklong look at Cannes festivals past by revisiting the 2015 winner, Dheepan. Director Jacques Audiard accepted the Palme d’Or for this devastating portrait of the refugee crisis in Europe and took the opportunity to shout out that year’s jury presidents: “To receive a prize from the Coen brothers is something pretty exceptional. I’m very touched.” Some critics were not so pleased, though, and booed the jury’s choice, feeling that the prize should have gone to László Nemes’s Son of Saul (which ended up winning the Grand Prix) or Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Lobster (the jury prize winner).

Nevertheless, Dheepan went on from Cannes to garner acclaim and nine César Award nominations. The film represents a notable breakthrough for French cinema, as the country’s first movie primarily made in Tamil, and tells the story of three refugess who flee the Sri Lankan civil war and move to Paris with the hope of rebuilding their lives. Antonythasan Jesuthasan, a former Tamil Tiger child soldier, gives a powerful performance as the title character, and Nicolas Jaar contributes evocative music, marking the first time Audiard has collaborated on a feature-film score with a composer other than Alexandre Desplat.

Joining the Coens on the jury were actors Rossy de Palma, Sophie Marceau, Sienna Miller, and Jake Gyllenhaal; directors Guillermo del Toro and Xavier Dolan; and composer Rokia Traoré. The competition lineup included Matteo Garone’s Tale of Tales, Todd Haynes’s Carol (whose star Rooney Mara picked up best actress), Hou Hsiao-hsien’s The Assassin (which won best director), Jia Zhangke’s Mountains May Depart, Hirokazu Koreeda’s Our Little Sister, Nanni Moretti’s Mia madre, Stéphane Brizé’s The Measure of a Man (which won Vincent Lindon best actor), and Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario.

The Un Certain Regard section (led by president Isabella Rosselini) featured new films from Naomi Kawase, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Brillante Mendoza, and Apichatpong Weerasethakul, while the Director’s Fortnight strand screened work by Philippe Garrel, Arnaud Desplechin, Miguel Gomes, and Jaco Van Dormael. The out-of-competition program yielded one of the festival’s biggest surprises: the critical praise heaped on George Miller’s Mad Max: Fury Road, which would go on to blockbuster success and Oscar nominations. Jane Birkin presented an honorary Palme d’Or to Agnès Varda, who became the first woman to ever receive that prize. And what would a year at Cannes be without a bit of controversy? This time, it stemmed from an incident in which several women were turned away from a gala screening of Carol for not wearing high heels!

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