2023 Critics’ Week Awards

Zafreen Zairizal in Amanda Nell Eu’s Tiger Stripes (2023)

Amanda Nell Eu is the first female director from Malaysia to have a film selected for any program in Cannes, and on Wednesday, she won the Grand Prize at Critics’ Week, the sidebar that has been showcasing first and second features for more than sixty years. In Tiger Stripes, Eu’s debut, the onset of puberty terrifies but also lends mystical powers to twelve-year-old Zaffan (Zafreen Zairizal).

Blending “dark humor, social commentary, sparing use of visual effects, and a healthy fondness for pulp cinema,” writes Stephen Dalton at the Film Verdict, Tiger Stripes “draws on southeast Asian folklore, notably the Indonesian ‘were-tiger’ Harimau jadian, though these pliable superstitions have equivalents across most other cultures. The story began to take shape when Eu came to recognize the female monsters familiar from her childhood fairy tales as thinly veiled projections of deep-rooted male unease about powerful, rebellious women.”

The jury, presided over by filmmaker Audrey Diwan (Happening) and including cinematographer Rui Poças (Zama), actor Franz Rogowski (Undine), critic and curator Meenakshi Shedde, and Sundance programming director Kim Yutani, presented the French Touch Prize of the Jury to It’s Raining in the House. Directed by Paloma Sermon-Daï, who won a good handful of awards for her documentary Petit Samedi (2020), this first fictional feature focuses on eighteen-year-old Purdey Lombet and fifteen-year-old Makenzy Lombet, real-life siblings using their own names.

Purdey and Makenzy’s father left years ago, and their mother has just disappeared. Over the course of a long summer in a resort town, they’ll have to find ways to make ends meet on their own. “An intimate portrait of life in the poorer parts of Belgium’s southern half, so often the setting for films by Sermon-Daï’s compatriots the Dardenne brothers, this slice of social realism establishes the director as an emerging talent with an eye for detail and features two excellent central performances,” writes Marc van de Klashorst for the International Cinephile Society.

Jovan Ginić won the Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award for playing fifteen-year-old Stefan in Vladimir Perišić’s Lost Country. The year is 1996, and Stefan’s mother, played by Jasna Đuričić, who won several awards for her lead performance in Jasmila Žbanić’s Quo Vadis, Aida? (2020), is a spokesperson for the Milošević regime, the target of student protests Stefan’s friends are taking part in. Lost Country, cowritten with Alice Winocour, is an “impressive, nuanced picture” that “works as a coming-of-age story, an examination of Balkan generational guilt, and a mercurial portrait of a career politician,” writes Wendy Ide for Screen.

In Amjad Al Rasheed’s Inshallah a Boy, the first Jordanian film to screen in Cannes and the winner of the Gan Foundation Award for Distribution, Mouna Hawa plays Nawal, a widow in her thirties fighting her late husband’s family for her share of the inheritance. At Cineuropa, David Katz finds that Inshallah a Boy “strongly evokes a flattering comparison to Asghar Farhadi’s Iranian efforts, especially A Separation and The Salesman: a top-to-bottom accounting of a repressive society laden with class antagonism.”

The SACD Award, presented by the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers, went to Iris Kaltenbäck, the writer and director of The Rapture. In her first feature, Kaltenbäck turns “what sounds like a high-concept pitch for a Hollywood comedy—a girl tries to pass off her best friend’s baby as her own—into a thought-provoking, emotionally involving look at both motherhood and womanhood,” writes Jordan Mintzer at the Film Verdict. Critics’ Week presents two prizes for short films, and this year, both the Leitz Cine Discovery Prize and the Canal+ Award went to Nans Laborde-Jourdàa for his seventeen-minute Boléro, which tracks a young man’s journey home.

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