Cannes cold shoulders its 'Queer Palm' prize

By: AFP      Published: 10:26 AM, 17 Jul, 2021
Cannes cold shoulders its 'Queer Palm' prize
Norwegian actress Renate Reinsve and Danish director Joachim Trier pose during a photocall for the film "Verdens Verste Menneske" (The Worst Person In The World) at the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival.–AFP

It has been won by big-name Hollywood directors and is headed by one of France's top comic stars, but the "Queer Palm" prize celebrating LGBTQ movies at Cannes still has no official place at the world's top film festival.

Awards for films with lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer content are already an integral part of other major movie gatherings, including Berlin, which has handed out its "Teddy Award" since 1987 and made it part of its official programme.

Not so at Cannes, where the festival's leadership won't even allow the "Queer Palm" -- which has been running for a decade -- to set up shop in its main building, the Palais du Festival.

"We're not ugly ducklings," actor and director Nicolas Maury, who heads up the "Queer Palm" jury this year, told AFP.

Maury, one of the stars of hit Netflix show "Call My Agent", added: "It's a central prize that doesn't deserve to be sidelined. I think it would be a good idea for it to be part of the official ceremony."

Maury said the award, created in 2010 and independently financed, is aimed at "courageous films that feature openness and humanity" where people who are often discriminated against "are finally noticed and listened to".

- 'The Divide' wins -

On Friday, the jury gave this year's "Queer Palm" to "The Divide" by French director Catherine Corsini, a film also competing for the Palme d'Or in the Cannes festival's main draw.

The movie describes events at a Paris hospital during violent clashes between "Yellow Vest" demonstrators and police that turned the capital's chic neighbourhoods into virtual war zones throughout 2018 and 2019.

The film's main male character is shot in the leg by police, taken to hospital and meets a same-sex couple going through a relationship crisis.

At first the encounter between the provincial "prole" and the artistic Parisian couple -- which is inspired by Corsini's own relationship -- is testy. But then it morphs into a degree of mutual understanding.

"What I really wanted to do was tell the story of a 50-something couple of women who have reached the point of accepting themselves as they are," the director said.

"Homosexuality both is and is not a theme of the film, because it's integral, it dodges prejudice. It's fantastic to be recognised for that."

In her three decades of filmmaking, the 65-year-old Corsini has made her mark primarily as a discreet but powerful voice for women's freedom, exploring themes of homosexuality, patriarchy and gender equality. 

Past winners include Todd Haynes for "Carol" and Xavier Dolan for "Laurence Anyways". "Portrait of a Lady on Fire" by Celine Sciamma won at the last Cannes in 2019.

This year's shortlist of 26 movies included Paul Verhoeven's "Benedetta" -- also vying for the Palme d'Or in the main Cannes competition -- which tells the story of a lesbian nun in 17th-century Italy.

"Compartment No. 6" by Juho Kuosmanen of Finland was also in the running, as was the gender-fluid shocker "Titane" by Julia Ducournau and several others spread over the festival's various categories.

"Queer Palm" founder Franck Finance-Madureira told AFP he was delighted that this year's Cannes selections made for rich pickings for his prize shortlist.

"This shows that queer themes are more and more prevalent in films," he said.