Cannes Just Awarded the Palme d'Or to a Female Filmmaker for Only the Second Time Ever

French filmmaker Julia Ducournau won the coveted award for her second feature, 'Titane'.
Sarah Ward
Published on July 19, 2021

When Julia Ducournau's first film hit cinemas back in 2016, it garnered plenty of headlines. When reports start circulating about people passing out during your movie, that tends to happen. Following a vegetarian veterinary student who starts hungering for something much meatier when she heads to college, Raw definitely isn't for the easily queasy. It's also one of the best movies of the past decade, with the French filmmaker debuting with a film that's intense in multiple ways, and also surprisingly relatable.

With her second feature, Ducournau is going to earn even more attention. Titane premiered at the 2021 Cannes Film Festival and, as announced on Sunday, July 18, it has just nabbed the prestigious event's coveted Palme d'Or. That's an exceptional feat for any director, but it's historic in this case. The movie's win marks only the second time ever that a female filmmaker has won the fest's top prize, and the first time a woman has ever earned the gong solo.

Jane Campion is the only other female filmmaker to receive the Palme d'Or, back in 1993 for The Piano — and when she won, she shared it in a tie with Farewell My Concubine's Chen Kaige. The highly valued prize was first introduced back in 1955, which means that a long list of men have taken it home over the past 66 years.

Ducournau's film was named 2021's best flick of the fest by a jury chaired by filmmaker Spike Lee (BlacKkKlansman), and also featuring fellow directors Mati Diop (Atlantics), Jessica Hausner (Little Joe) and Kleber Mendonça Filho (Bacurau); actor and filmmaker Mélanie Laurent (Oxygen); actors Maggie Gyllenhaal (The Deuce), Tahar Rahim (The Serpent) and Song Kang-ho (Parasite); and singer-songwriter Mylène Farmer. Lee was so excited to announce the winner, he let it slip at the beginning of the ceremony — before the night's other gongs were announced.

Like Raw, Titane doesn't hold back with its concept. The official festival synopsis describes it as a film that sees a father reunited with the son who has been missing for ten years following a series of unexplained crimes— but that's really the most simplistic description possible. Starring Vincent Lindon and Agathe Rousselle, it also sees the latter play a character with quite the car fetish, and morphs into Cronenbergian body horror territory from there.

Ducournau's Cannes win marks the second time a female director has made history this year, after Chloé Zhao became the first woman of colour and second woman ever to win the Best Director Oscar for Nomadland back in April.

At Cannes, a heap of other movies picked up shiny trophies, too — with the Grand Prix shared by Asghar Farhadi's A Hero and Juho Kuosmanen's Compartment Nº6, the Jury Prize split between Apichatpong Weerasethakul's English-language debut Memoria and Nadav Lapid's Ahed's Knee, and Best Director going to Leos Carax for his Adam Driver-starring musical Annette. The Best Actress prize was awarded to Renate Reinsve for The Worst Person in the World, while Caleb Landry Jones won Best Actor for his titular role in Australian drama Nitram.

Check out the trailer for Titane below:

Titane doesn't currently have a release date Down Under. We'll update you when one is announced.

Top image: Carole Bethuel.

Published on July 19, 2021 by Sarah Ward
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