Payal Kapadia’s ‘All We Imagine as Light’ wins Grand Prix award at Cannes 2024

PTI, May 26, 2024, 8:13 AM IST

Payal Kapadia (L) and a scene from the film (Credit: PTI)

Cannes: Payal Kapadia on Saturday scripted history by becoming the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival for her film “All We Imagine as Light”.

The film bagged the award, the second-most prestigious prize of the festival after the Palme d’Or, which went to American director Sean Baker for “Anora”.

Kapadia’s movie, which screened on Thursday night, is the first Indian film in 30 years and first ever by an Indian female director to be showcased in the main competition.

The last Indian movie to be selected for the main competition was Shaji N Karun’s 1994 movie “Swaham”.

Kapadia received the Grand Prix from American actor Viola Davis. In her speech, the filmmaker thanked the three leading ladies of the film — Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha and Chhaya Kadam — and said the film would not have been possible without them.

“I’m very nervous, so I wrote something down. Thank you to the Cannes Film Festival for having our film here. Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film.

“This film is about friendship, about three very different women. Oftentimes, women are pitted against each other. This is the way our society is designed and it is really unfortunate. But for me, friendship is a very important relationship because it can lead to greater solidarity, inclusivity and empathy,” said Kapadia, who was accompanied by the three actors on the stage.

The director also gave a shout out to the festival workers who had protested at the opening night gala, demanding better wages and acknowledgement.

“All We Imagine as Light”, a Malayalam-Hindi feature, is about Prabha, a nurse, who receives an unexpected gift from her long estranged husband that throws her life into disarray. Her younger roommate, Anu, tries in vain to find a private spot in the big city to be alone with her boyfriend.

One day the two nurses go on a road trip to a beach town where the mystical forest becomes a space for their dreams to manifest, according to the plotline.

The film became a strong contender for the top prize after its screening that saw the team receive an eight-minute standing ovation and glowing reviews from the international critics.

Baker’s “Anora” was another favourite and ultimately walked away with the award. The film is a drama about a young Brooklyn sex worker who marries the son of a Russian oligarch, setting off a chain of events in the process for herself and the husband.

“All We Imagine as Light” marked the feature directorial debut of Kapadia, an alumna of the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). Her acclaimed documentary “A Night of Knowing Nothing” had premiered at Director’s Fortnight in 2021 and won the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) award.

Her short film “Afternoon Clouds” in Cinefondation, a category dedicated to supporting the next generation of talented filmmakers.

In each of the three competitive sections of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, India won a major award. On Thursday, “Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know…”, a film by FTII student Chidananda S. Naik won the La Cinef first prize.

On Friday, Anasuya Sengupta, a production designer who played a pivotal onscreen role in Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov’s Un Certain Regard title “The Shameless”, made history. She became the first ever Indian to win the best actress prize in Cannes.

The closing ceremony, hosted by French actor Camille Cottin, saw Jacques Audiard taking home the Jury Prize for musical crime comedy film “Emilia Perez”. The film also won the best actress honour for its four lead artistes — Adriana Paz, Zoe Saldaña, Karla Sofía Gascón and Selena Gomez.

Jesse Plemons won the best actor honour for playing the trinity of characters — a submissive businessman, a grieving police officer and a bisexual cult member — Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Kinds of Kindness”.

The award for best director went to Portuguese film director Miguel Gomes for period drama movie “Grand Tour”.

French film director-writer bagged the best screenplay trophy for her body horror drama “The Substance”, featuring Hollywood star Demi Moore.

Iranian filmmaker Mohammad Rasoulof, who recently fled his native country after being sentenced to eight years in prison, won the Special Award for best screenplay for his new film “The Seed of the Sacred Fig”.

The Camera d’Or (for the best directorial debut of the year) was bagged by Ingmar Bergman’s grandson Halfdan Ullman Tondel for “Armand”.

The main competition jury was chaired by filmmaker Greta Gerwig and also included Spanish director Juan Antonio Bayona, Turkish actor-screenwriter Ebru Ceylan, Italian actor Pierfrancesco Favino, American actor Lily Gladstone, Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda, Lebanese actor-director Nadine Labaki and French stars Eva Green and French actor Omar Sy.

Other Indian films that were selected for Cannes Competition segment included Mrinal Sen’s “Kharij” (1983), M S Sathyu’s “Garm Hava” (1974), Satyajit Ray’s “Parash Pathar” (1958), Raj Kapoor’s “Awaara” (1953), V Shantaram’s “Amar Bhoopali” (1952) and Chetan Anand’s “Neecha Nagar” (1946).

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