Ali Abassi, raised in Iran and now a filmmaker in Denmark, has said that he’s drawn on his status as an outsider in both countries to make his second feature, Border, which has won this year’s Un Certain Regard Prize in Cannes. Adapted from a novella by John Ajvide Lindqvist, who also wrote Let the Right One In, Border is the fantastical tale of a Swedish border guard with a sense of smell so keen she can sniff out human emotions. Reviews have been consistently positive, with Stephen Dalton observing in the Hollywood Reporter that the film “blends supernatural folklore with contemporary social realism to create a universal parable about tribalism, racism, and fear of the Other.”
For more on Border, see David Acacia (International Cinephile Society), John Bleasdale (CineVue, 4/5), Mónica Delgado (desistfilm), Allan Hunter (Screen), Sophie Monks Kaufman (Sight & Sound), Tom Kiesecoms (ScreenAnarchy), Eric Kohn (IndieWire, B+), Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa, where Jan Lumholdt interviews Abassi), Rory O’Connor (Film Stage, B+), Steve Pond (TheWrap), Barbara Scharres (RogerEbert.com), and Alissa Simon (Variety). Neon has already taken North American rights.
Cannes describes Un Certain Regard, introduced in 1978, as its “second competition of the Official Selection,” a program of films “from another point of view,” as a loose translation of “Un Certain Regard” would suggest. This year’s jury, led by Benicio Del Toro and including Kantemir Balagov, Julie Huntsinger, Annemarie Jacir, and Virginie Ledoyen, has given its best director award to Sergei Loznitsa for Donbass, an urgent dispatch from the ongoing war in eastern Ukraine between government forces and Russian separatists. You’ll find reviews of this series of documentary-like vignettes here.
The award for best performance goes to Victor Polster, who plays a transgender teenage ballerina in the process of transitioning in Lukas Dhont’s Girl. Several reviewers have praised Dhont for concentrating on the character’s inner struggles and steering clear of showy dramatic moments. At the same time, Notebook editor Daniel Kasman finds that Girl is “a relatively one note film, but one driven by a winning, singular performance by Polster, and one that plays its note with as much keen observation and care as one can hope for.”
For more on Girl, see Peter Debruge (Variety), Erwan Desbois (International Cinephile Society), David Ehrlich (IndieWire, B+), Aurore Engelen (Cineuropa), Wendy Ide (Screen), David Jenkins (Little White Lies), Katherine McLaughlin (Sight & Sound), Rory O’Connor (Film Stage, A-), Steve Pond (TheWrap), Jordan Ruimy (Playlist, A-), Barbara Scharres (RogerEbert.com), Boyd van Hoeij (Hollywood Reporter), Joseph Walsh (CineVue, 5/5), and Blake Williams (Filmmaker). Cineuropa’s posted a video interview with Dhont (5’28”).
Meryem Benm’Barek wins the best screenplay award for Sofia, the story of a young woman in Morocco who faces a prison sentence if her out-of-wedlock pregnancy is discovered. At RogerEbert.com, Barbara Scharres finds that the Moroccan director “demonstrates storytelling talent, particularly when it comes to integrating class discrepancies. But her strategy of delaying a shattering plot twist until near the end softens the impact of choices that assure that Sofia’s future will be bleak and loveless, even as she revels in her apparent triumph.” More from Fabien Lemercier (Cineuropa) and Lee Marshall (Screen).
A Special Jury Prize goes to the docudrama The Dead and the Others by Portuguese director João Salaviza, who won a Palme d’Or for his short film Arena in 2009, and his Brazilian codirector, Renée Nader Messora. The pair lived with the indigenous Kraho people in a remote Brazilian village for nine months and collaborated with the local cast and crew to come up with the story. At Cineuropa, Bénédicte Prot admires the film’s “stunning photography, its expert editing, and its beautiful soundscape encompassing both forest and city.” More from Stephen Dalton (Hollywood Reporter), Allan Hunter (Screen) and Daniel Kasman (Notebook).
For news and items of interest throughout the day, every day, follow @CriterionDaily.