The red carpet has been rolled up and put away for next year, Tom Cruise has jetted off to other shores and relative calm has, once again, descended on the Croisette. This year’s Cannes Film Festival concluded on May 28 and while the winners of the much-awaited feature film awards celebrate — the Palme d’Or (The Golden Palm) went to Triangle of Sadness by Ruben Ostlund — congratulations are also due for South Asian cinema , which won not just widespread praise but also picked up some awards.
The least surprising of these was the top documentary prize, L’Oeil d’Or (The Golden Eye), going to All That Breathes, Shaunak Sen’s urgent, poetic film on Delhi’s struggle to breathe. Even before it arrived in Cannes, the film, which is told through the experiences of two brothers who tend to injured birds and nurse them back to health, had earned plaudits and won the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize: Documentary at the prestigious Sundance Film Festival . When it screened in Cannes, the film got a standing ovation. As did Joyland, directed by Saim Sadiq, which is the first entry from Pakistan at Cannes. The film, which takes on the country’s entrenched patriarchy through a queer narrative and features a transgender actor, Alina Khan, in a lead role, made history by winning the jury prize in the Un Certain Regard section. Another history-making film from South Asia is Nepali filmmaker Abinash Bikram Shah’s Lori: Melancholy of My Mother’s Lullabies, which won a Special Mention award in the short film category.
While India was the “Country of Honor” at the Marche du Film, the Cannes film market, it is encouraging that small, sensitively-told stories from the larger region won the recognition that truly matters at a festival celebrating the art of cinema.