This year’s Queer Palm from the Cannes Film Festival goes to Todd Haynes “Carol” from the all female jury presided over by Desiree Akhavan : Ava Cahen, French journalist, Laëtitia Eïdo, French actress, Elli Mastorou, French journalist, and Nadia Turincev, Franco-Russian film producer. The award was announced on May 23.
The screenplay for “Carol” based on Patricia Highsmith’s novel “The Price of Salt” (1952) was written by Phyllis Nagy. As part of the official selection it could still win the Palme d’Or at the closing ceremony May 24 and has consistently been the most highly regarded film at the festival, starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara.
The Queer Palm Award was given for “its performance to crack the heart in neat and distinguished scenes and for Todd Hayne’s impressive mastery of cinematic art. ” The Queer Palm Short Film went to Chilean film “Locas Perdidas” by Ignacio Juricic Merillan presented to the Cinéfondation.
The ambition of the Queer Palm is left up to every jury. Desiree Akhavan gave her views as president of this year’s jury to Yagg.com
“How do you recognize a queer film? The organizers of the Queer Palm, for its part, defines queer cinema as ‘stories and people who voluntarily stand against social norms’. Whatever the chosen definition, I had a hard time finding these qualities in films selected by the Queer Palm this year. All seemed just too little gay”.
In contrast to this bold statement by Akhavan, Ellen Degenere’s TV show “Ellen” that was pulled by ABC in 1998 for being “too gay”.
A special mention went to “The Lobster” by Yorgos Lanthimos. According to Akhavan it is “a film that contains nothing ‘gay’, but which stands out for the way it mocks the absurd social norms and conventions on sex. A perfect allegory, which echoes a lack of openly gay representation in Cannes.”
“The Lobster” concerns single people in the future who must choose an animal to become if they don’t find a partner.
When asked if Cannes has trouble with films that contain queer elements or directors who avoid telling queer stories because it would relegate their work to the ghetto of “gay cinema”, Akavan replies: “Definitely, there is a bit of both. And this is precisely why the existence of a prize like the Queer Palm is fundamental: this award highlights films that expand the definition of queer cinema, and continue to honor the history of its cinema.”
“Last year”, she continues, “Xavier Dolan said that the existence of the Queer Palm disgusted him”, she continued. [Dolan who is on the official Cannes jury this year won the Queer Palm for “Laurence Anyways” in 2012 and never showed up to pick up his award and was notably distraught by the distinction]. In all honor, I would disagree. For me, the prizes such as Queer Palm do not fragment society: on the contrary, they highlight the existence of queer cinema, exposes it and makes it public. Queer cinema is very important because it is through queer cinema that I have met my best friends. In queer cinema I found confidence in myself and strength while I was coming out and tried to understand what being gay meant and how it would influence my life. I do not think my story is a special case. It’s very important to say “merdre” to stereotypes. Those who are bothered by a “gay director” label should seek to redefine the term and make good queer films. Most people think that being queer is fighting against labels, that is defying categorizations. Labels must go in the garbage – like the badges distributed in my school. But tonight I’d rather defend these labels”.
The 2012 Queer Palm given to Dolan was the only year that a director disagreed with his/her film being perceived as representative of queer cinema. Akhavan’s ability to take this to task and enlarge the concept of what is meant by queer cinema and how it will expand is important for filmmakers. Dolan can be regarded as a director who though openly gay narrowly defines what is meant by queer as pure categorization, thought his use of the word “disgusting” towards his award is worthy of scrutiny. Akhavan defines how the term queer and consequently the Queer Palm goes beyond the borders of putting films into categories into expanding the frontiers of diversity.
“Every time a good movie appears as a queer movie, perception of queer cinema change. “Strangers On a Lake”, “Weekend”, “Pride”: these films have changed the vision that we could have queer cinema, because they were not afraid of a “gay cinema ghetto”. The movie we chose to reward [“Carol”] is more than just a film: it is a moment of history. The first love story between two women, treated with respect and the importance that we give to all other major film romances.
At the press conference for “Carol” a gay critic thanked Cate Blanchett, producer and actor of the film, for her interpretation of a lesbian in the film. Another critic wanted to know if she had had relationships with women and how it was to play a lesbian. Her response was that her personal life had nothing to do with how she works as an actress to embody her characters. She believes that it would be “foolish” to assume that LGBT recognition is a fait accompli and far from universal when in some countries it is still considered illegal, a position that was affirmed by co-actor Rooney Mara.
The feature films in competition for the 2015 Queer Palm were:
Carol , Todd Haynes (UK/US / Sélection Officielle)
Marguerite et Julien , Valérie Donzelli (France / Sélection Officielle)
Amy, Asif Kapadia (UK / Sélection Officielle – Hors-Compétition)
Love , Gaspar Noé (France / Sélection Officielle – out of competition)
Dope , Rick Famuyiwa (US/ La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs)
Much Loved , Nabil Ayouch (France / La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs)
Mustang , Deniz Gamze Erguven (France / La Quinzaine des Réalisateurs)
Les Deux Amis , Louis Garrel (France / La Semaine de la Critique)
Ni le ciel, ni la terre de Clément Cogitore (France-Belgium / La Semaine de la Critique)
De l’ombre il y a , Nathan Nicholovitch (France / ACID)
Pauline s’arrache, ‘Emilie Brisavoine (France / ACID)
La Vanité , Lionel Baier (Switzerland-France / ACID)