‘Simon of the Mountain’ Nabs Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize

And the winner is: “Simon of the Mountain.”

The film, directed by Federico Luis – and marking his feature debut – was awarded Cannes’ Critics Week Grand Prix.

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Sold by Luxbox, the Argentina-Chile-Uruguay production stars Lorenzo “Toto” Ferro, the lead in breakout “El Angel,” as Simon, 21, a lonely only son who falls in with a group of discapacitated kids, feigning a discapacity. Thanks to their friendship he flowers, discovering love, sex and a sense of belonging.

“It’s a coming-of-age film. It’s a theme dealt with in an original way, both in form and content. It’s also a film that speaks of disability with a rare acuity. Never polite, always human,” Critics’ Week artistic director Ava Cahen told Variety.

French Touch Prize of the Jury went to migrant drama “Blue Sun Palace” by Constance Tsang, described by Variety as a “charmer,” and the Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award was won by Ricardo Teodoro for São Paulo LGBTQ tale “Baby,” from Marcelo Caetano, which has begun breaking out international sales for M-Appeal.

According to Cahen, this year’s selection was “all about love, exile, oppression or emancipation.”

“They’re mostly dramas, but they’re dramas of many shades and colors, in which light always shines through. We wanted to show films that would bring us together at a time when society is so divided,” she said.

Thanks to such films like “Julie Keeps Quiet” and “The Brink of Dreams,” a documentary about all-female theatre street troupe in Egypt, this year’s selection saw creative films that take on the most pressing issues.

“This is precisely the balance we’re looking for. We don’t choose ‘subjects’ but films, fiction or documentary, that transcend us, that elevate us,” added Cahen.

“In ‘The Brink of Dreams,’ the personalities of the documentary’s protagonists give the film its strength and boldness. ‘Julie Keeps Quiet’s’ directing caught our eye. It’s a string of impressive still shots and sequences. Leonardo Van Dijl’s camera is always in the right place, allowing us to get down to Julie’s level.”

“Julie Keeps Quiet” was also a hit with the jurors, who gave it two prizes: SACD Award for Van Diji and Ruth Becquart and Gan Foundation Award, which went to Jour2fête.

“I want to dedicate this award to Judith Godreche and everyone who has the courage to speak out,” said Van Diji at Wenesday’s prize ceremony.

But Critics’ Week – as suggested by its name – celebrates not just the filmmakers, but also those who write about their work.

“The critics’ profession is increasingly precarious and denigrated, despite being an essential link in the distribution and transmission of films,” observed Cahen.

“It would be a pity to do without the words and analysis of critics. We’re driven by the desire to help audiences discover new works, to share our discoveries and create a connection with the public, so that they in turn take hold of the films.”

Another interesting trend? Melodrama is back, as seen in the likes of “Across the Sea.”

“I love melodramas, a genre that’s both demanding and popular, with its own codes. Here, the director plays with these codes and gives them another dimension, notably through the Raï music that accompanies the film throughout,” she noted.

Musical is also making a comeback.

“We presented Alexis Langlois’s ‘Queens of Drama’ as a special screening, and I think everyone’s got the hit “Pas touche” stuck in their heads by now!”

Among shorts, “Montsouris Park” scooped the Leitz Cine Discover Prize.

“We’ve selected 10 short films from around the world to compete. Animated and live-action films, comedies, dystopias, existential fables. We have also chosen three short films for our special short film session, including ‘Sauna Day,’ which won us over at first sight,” said Cahen.

The film was directed by Anna Hints of Smoke Sauna Sisterhood fame and Tushar Prakash.

“It’s a very surprising, sensory and allegorical film which takes place in an all-male sauna. It whips the senses and the blood.”

The full list of awards here:

Grand Prix 

“Simon of the Mountain” by Federico Luis

French Touch Prize of the Jury

“Blue Sun Palace” by Constance Tsang

Louis Roederer Foundation Rising Star Award 

Ricardo Teodoro for “Baby”by Marcelo Caetano

Leitz Cine Discover Prize for Short Film

“Montsouris Park” by Guil Sela

Gan Foundation Award for Distribution

Jour2fête, French distributor for “Julie Keeps Quiet” by Leonardo Van Dijl

SACD Award

Leonardo Van Dijl & Ruth Becquart for “Julie Keeps Quiet”

Canal+ Award for Short Film

“Absent” by Cem Demirer

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