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Bong Joon-ho wins the Palme d'Or for 'Parasite', becoming the first Korean director to do so

By Say Peng  /  27 May 2019 (Monday)

(Photo credit: Cannes Film Festival)

Bong Joon-ho is officially the first Korean film director to win the Palme d'Or, the top prize of the Cannes Film Festival.

The film is 'Parasite' and, good news, it will be released in Singapore on 27 June.
Bong's seventh film, 'Parasite' follows an unemployed, down-and-out family (headlined by regular Bong actor Song Kang-ho as the head of the family) as they try to swindle a super-rich upper-class family.

This is Bong's third outing in Cannes. His first time in Cannes was with 'Mother'. 'Okja' was his second outing at Cannes, although it was unfortunately marred by controversy due to Okja's status as a Netflix film.

This time around, 'Parasite' was fully embraced. It received a standing ovation after its world premiere, followed by near-universal critical acclaim. 

The second prize of the festival, the Grand Prix, was awarded to 'Atlantiques', directed by French-Senegalese director Mati Diop.

This makes Diop the first African women whose film got selected and won a prize at Cannes' Official Selection.

The film follows a group of exploited construction workers who decide to leave Dakar, Senegal by the sea in search of a better future.

The Jury Prize, the third prize of the festival, was shared between French-African director Ladj Ly's 'Les Misérables' and Brazillian directors Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles' 'Bacurau'.

An obvious play on Victor Hugo's famous novel, 'Les Misérables' is inspired by the 2005 riots in the Paris suburbs and follows three members of an anti-crime brigade who are overrun while trying to make an arrest.

Expanded from a short film of the same name, French-African Ly explores police brutality and the urban underclass.

The film is reminiscent of 'The Birth of a Nation', in which African-American director Nate Parker reclaim a white property (in this case, D. W. Griffith's original 'Birth of a Nation') and use it to subvert itself, for the purpose of political empowerment.

Variety wrote, "As a statement of new-generation intent, symbolically reclaiming a national-treasure text to reflect the more diverse reality of contemporary France, it makes its point immediately."

Belonging to the genre of the "weird western", 'Bacurau' takes place in the small Brazillian town of Bacurau, in which strange things start happening following the death of its matriarch.

The townfolks also find themselves literally hunted down by heavily-armed white Americans, which is no doubt the filmmakers trying to make a statement on white colonialism.

The Best Director prize went to two-time Palme d'Or winners Jean-Pierre Dardenne and Luc Dardenne, known as the Dardenne Brothers, for 'Young Ahmed'.

The film follows Ahmed, a young Belgian boy who plots to murder his teacher after being radicalised by his militant imam.

The Guardian praised the film for its "subtle and timely tale of radicalisation."

'Young Ahmed' has been acquired by local independent distributor Anticipate Pictures. Look out for it! 

Antonio Banderas won Best Actor for Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's autobiographical film 'Pain & Glory'. 

Banderas plays film director Salvador Mallo, essentially a stand-in for Almodovar. The contemplative film finds Mallo reflecting on the choices he has made in life as past and present come crashing down around him.

'Pain & Glory' will be released in Singapore in October. Almodovar's previous film 'Julieta' had a limited release in Singapore last year.

It seems that everyone is happy with the Cannes jury's decision this year. What the critics and the public liked, the Cannes jury also liked. This is unlike previous years where films that were the critics' darlings such as Lee Chang-dong's 'Burning' or Maren Ade's 'Toni Erdmann' failed to win any prizes. And of course, this year, there wasn't any Netflix films in competition.

Despite many films featuring heavy socio-political topics, the atmosphere at Cannes this year was warm and jolly. Will it be next year?
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