Cannes Diary: serious social and political themes appear to have impressed the jury

A look at some of the winners in our behind-the-scenes look at the Cannes Film Festival

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It’s closing weekend here at the Cannes Film Festival. The jury for the Un Certain Regard section of the official programme handed out the first batch of prizes on Saturday. The jury president, the Danish director Thomas Vinterberg, described this year’s film selection as “brutal, unsentimental, sometimes disturbing, diverse, political, but always poetic”.

Personal stories of romantic trauma and glamorous lifestyles dominated the festival programme but serious social and political themes appear to have impressed the jury more.

The main Un Certain Regard prize went to The Missing Picture by Rithy Pran, a stylised documentary detailing the appalling struggles of the director’s own family under the murderous dictator Pol Pot in 1970s Cambodia. The Jury Prize went to Omar, the Palestinian director Hany Abu-Assad’s unflinching drama about violent revenge on the West Bank.

Also on Saturday, the International Federation of Film Critics (FIPRESCI) announced its own prizes. One was awarded to the Iranian film-maker Mohammad Rasoulof’s angry political thriller Manuscripts Don’t Burn, and another to the French-Tunisian director Abdellatif Kechiche’s powerful love story Blue Is The Warmest Colour, which is also a strong contender for the festival’s main prize, the Palme d’Or.

And though it did not win any prizes, it must be said: one of the most impressive Arab performances seen at the festival this year was in Jim Jarmusch's deadpan vampire comedy Only Lovers Left Alive, which stars Tilda Swinton, Tim Hiddleston, John Hurt and Mia Wasikowska, and shot in locations ranging from Detroit to Tangiers. It was in a nightclub scene in the latter town that the electrifying Lebanese singer-composer Yasmine Hamdan, the wife of the Palestinian filmmaker Elia Suleiman,   gave a captivating rendition of one of her own compositions, which proved the most riveting moment in the entire film.

And although Omar Sharif didn’t show up to accompany the screening of Jacques Baratier’s Goha, one of his first leading roles (and the first Tunisian feature film, made in 1958) that was presented in a newly restored copy in the Cannes Classics sidebar, another cast member did. It was none other than the Tunisian-born Claudia Cardinale, who had made her screen debut with this terrific rediscovery.

Meanwhile, more celebrities have been flying into Cannes to promote films or simply join the party. The latest additions to the VIP list include the actor Robert Redford, the singer Cheryl Cole and the controversial director Roman Polanski, whose new stage-to-screen adaptation Venus In Furs has been generally well received. Will Smith’s oldest son Trey was also in town to play a DJ set at a dance club.

But strangely absent were Joaquin Phoenix and Ryan Gosling, despite both having films in the competition. Both cancelled appearances for reasons unknown. Their new movies, The Immigrant and Only God Forgives, have received poor reviews.

Pure coincidence? Of course.

• Read Arts&Life On Wednesday for our final Cannes Diary.

– With files from Peter Scarlet

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