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Predictions for the 74th Cannes Film Festival Awards

The Palme d'Or is displayed prior to the 74th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, July 5, 2021. The Cannes film festival runs from July 6 - July 17, 2021. (Photo by Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP)

*Editor’s Note: Robert did an excellent job with these predictions, which I’m sure will be more accurate than my own. His are below, with a very thorough write-up, followed by my quick, comment-free ones, for comparison. I wrote here about what might emerge from the fest as an Oscar player, so it’ll be interesting to see if they’re represented at all in the awards this weekend. Enjoy!*

74th Cannes Film Festival Predictions

Robert Hamer

When it comes to awards predictions, it can be easy to get cynical and bored with what has often become a machine of publicity, money, and industry politics being telegraphed months in advance with very little genuine surprises. That’s why I always look forward to the major international film festivals. Not because they’re reliable Oscar predictors – only three Palme d’Or winners, three Golden Lion winners, and one Golden Bear winner have ever gone on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture – but for the precise opposite reason. With the sole exception of Toronto, success at a festival does not necessarily mean “Oscar-friendliness” or mainstream appeal. The competition is a lot narrower, the pool of evaluators limited to a select jury of respected film figures from all over the globe, which means the winners can get really interesting. 

It’s where smaller movies go to be seen beyond their home countries, and for little indies to pick up steam with adventurous studios. It’s exciting and fun to hear the early buzz from those on-the-rise filmmakers with weirder, more idiosyncratic projects. And hey, if a few of them do generate Oscar buzz, all the better.

This year has been especially welcome since the festival was effectively cancelled last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic (at least the Main Competition), and thankfully all of the originally-announced jurors were asked to return to do what they had planned in 2020. This time the President is Spike Lee, the first African-American head of a Cannes Main Competition Jury, joined by Mati Diop, Mylène Farmer, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Jessica Hausner, Mélanie Laurent, Kleber Mendonça Filho, Tahar Rahim, and Song Kang-ho. I can’t claim to know what is going on in the minds of these nine individuals… but I’ll have fun trying!

Here’s where I’m predicting they’ll fall tomorrow at the awards ceremony, based solely on the early critical reception and how the jurors themselves were rumored to have received them:

 Prix du scenario: Bergman Island – Mia Hansen-Løve

My sense of the screenplay award is that it very often favors movies praised for their intelligence and semi-literary approaches to theme and character, but garner a split reaction between critics who declared them a masterpiece against those who found themselves at an emotional remove from the sharp storytelling. Obviously there are exceptions – Portrait of a Lady on Fire bleeds passion in every frame and was hailed for that at Cannes – but The Salesman, Leviathan, and A Touch of Sin were all blessed/cursed with similar “Yeah, but…” respectful reviews. The dual meta narrative of art blending into life as an artist dives into the creative process should be received as profound to a jury of fellow artists, and an award like this for Mia Hansen-Løve should contribute greatly to her steadily rising star in international cinema. Other likely contenders for this prize include The Worst Person in the World and Drive My Car.

 Prix de la mise en scène: Titane – Julia Ducournau

Quite a few prognosticators are pinning this apparently demented psychological thriller about mechanophilia and identity subterfuge as the favorite for the top prize. This would be an undoubtedly “cool” choice, but I have my reservations. For one thing, these taboo-busting unhinged movies pushing the envelope as far as humanly possible, more often than not, do walk away from the festival with awards… but almost never the top one. Sometimes it’s the Jury Prize, like Bacurau and Thirst. Sometimes it’s the Grand Prix, like Oldboy. Sometimes it can even be the Screenplay award, as what happened with You Were Never Really Here. But if you’re David Lynch, Mathieu Amalric, Nicolas Winding Refn, and Olivier Assayas, your wildly off-kilter cinematic vision finds its home most often in the Best Director award at the festival. While this would mean another missed opportunity to recognize only the second female Palme champion since Jane Campion tied for the award 28 years ago, it would make Julia Ducournau only the third woman to win Best Director after Yuliya Solntseva and Sofia Coppola, which I predict Spike Lee’s jury will find more than acceptable. Other likely contenders for this prize include Kirill Serebennikov for Petrov’s Flu and Nadav Lapid for Ahed’s Knee.

 Prix d’interprétation masculine: Simon Rex – Red Rocket

No other prize at the Cannes Film Festival, for my money, is more consistently predictable than this one. I’m not entirely sure why, but it’s the only category I have been able to forecast with any real chance at success, and I don’t say this as a boast of my clairvoyance but simply a basic awareness of which actor receives the most “buzz” from the press. Virtually everyone who paid attention to the Cannes reactions last, erm, I mean two years ago correctly pegged Antonio Banderas as the shoe-in for this award, and the same was true of Vincent Lindon in 2015, Timothy Spall in 2014, Mads Mikkelsen in 2012, and Javier Bardem (tied with Elio Germano) in 2010. As far as I can tell, the one male performance that has been singled out in any consistent fashion is Simon Rex’s portrayal of a retired adult film performer dealing with being a pariah when he returns to his conservative childhood town in Sean Baker’s Red Rocket. That Rex himself is a former adult performer-turned-rapper-turned-actor who has been very open about the stigma surrounding his past profession lends to the authenticity of his acclaimed performance, and recognition on such a public stage may also be interpreted as a show of support to sex workers in general. Other likely contenders for this prize include Adam Driver for Annette and Jeffrey Wright for The French Dispatch.

 Prix d’interprétation feminine: Renate Reinsave – The Worst Person in the World

The Worst Person in the World was the hardest movie for me to get a “read” on when making these predictions. This conclusion to Joachim Trier’s informal “Oslo Trilogy” has attracted near-unanimously positive consensus among the attendees that, as the festival went on, tamped down steadily as other movies seemed to have stolen its thunder. While some have pegged this as a surefire Screenplay winner, I’m more inclined to Renate Reinsave being singled out for her reportedly deft juggling of the film’s varying tragicomic tones and verbal sparring between her two paramours. While it is not common for both of the top acting prizes to go to relative newcomers over more esteemed international thespians, it’s not unheard of either, as we saw in 2018 when relatively unknown Samal Yeslyamova and Marcello Fonte rocketed to stardom from their winning performances at that year’s festival, beating out several better-known contenders. My spider-sense is telling me that history will repeat itself this time around. Other likely contenders for this prize include Lucie Zhang for Paris, 13th District and Virginie Efira for Benedetta.

Prix du Jury: Lingui, the Sacred Bonds – Mahamat-Saleh Haroun

And now we come to the hazier arena of guesswork. Perhaps not the three films themselves – I think I have good reasons for locking down these three as the ultimate champs of the festival – but rather where they ultimately fall on what amounts to the 3rd, 2nd, and 1st Place prizes of the Cannes Film Festival. It’s not easy figuring out which of the most well-received competitors are the most loved by the jury versus the second-most loved. I’m going mainly by my gut here, and I could very easily see these three competitors being placed entirely differently in this ascending pecking order. Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, one of the very few African filmmakers to have enjoyed a regular presence at Cannes, has won this award before with A Screaming Man, and this apparently harrowing drama about a woman trying to secure an abortion for her teenage daughter is reportedly a favorite of Spike Lee’s among the films in competition.

Grand Prix: The Divide – Catherine Corsini

One competitor that Spike Lee seemed even more enthusiastic about was this chamber drama taking place in a cramped emergency room over a single night as an ensemble of characters try to endure a rough night of civil unrest. Most attendees have praised this as a hard-hitting and engaging drama with a web of fascinating characters. The only negative feedback that has come to Catherine Corsini’s entry – her first to make the Main Competition in twenty years – is that it is structurally messy, heavy-handed, and its execution doesn’t always match its ambitions. In other words, it’s like most Spike Lee movies. It should be noted that the President of the Main Competition Jury doesn’t hold more voting power than the other jurors, but the Grand Prix does have an interesting habit of movies that go to the Jury President’s personal favorite if they can’t persuade the other members to give it the top prize.

Palme d’Or: A Hero – Asghar Farhadi

So why this movie? What is drawing me to this one as the one that Spike Lee’s jury will be most willing to hold up and celebrate with one of the most prestigious cinematic awards in the world? For one thing, as much as these festivals love to deny it, professional politics and “overdue” narratives do play a part in who wins the Palme d’Or. Maybe not as unabashedly as the Academy Awards, but it’s definitely there. Many of the previous winners over the last twenty years were either perennial competitors getting their due or longtime international/indie film darlings the festival was keen to spotlight sooner or later. Asghar Farhadi, whose last film in competition won Best Screenplay and Best Actress and is reportedly going to be bolstered by serious financial backing from Amazon Studios as they push A Hero for the next Academy Awards, is arguably the most acclaimed Iranian filmmaker of the 21st century. Some critics have complained that this movie, exploring the unintended consequences of a prisoner trying to renegotiate a debt, is not much of a departure from Farhadi’s usual wheelhouse of moral ambiguity and internally conflicted protagonists. But Cannes Main Competition juries have never seemed to apply that specific criticism in their deliberations in the past, as I, Daniel Blake, Dheepan, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, The White Ribbon, and The Child all faced similar feedback and that didn’t make one bit of difference on the night of the ceremony. Besides, that seems to be the only substantive criticism directed at a competitor that has otherwise been praised as one of the highlights of the festival, with most attendees describing it as a powerful drama seeing Farhadi firing on all cylinders as a writer and director. If there is one movie that can unite all of the different experiences and opinions of the jury this year, one movie that can be acceptable to all as a sterling choice for the award and recognitions for one of international cinema’s most beloved figures… it’s this one.

74th Cannes Film Festival Predictions

Joey Magidson

 Prix du scenario: Lingui, the Sacred BondsMahamat-Saleh Haroun (alternate: The Worst Person in the World – Joachim Trier)

 Prix de la mise en scène: The Divide – Catherine Corsini (alternate: Titane – Julia Ducournau)

 Prix d’interprétation masculine: Simon Rex – Red Rocket (alternate: Adam Driver Annette)

 Prix d’interprétation feminine: Virginie Efira – Benedetta (alternate: Renate Reinsave – The Worst Person in the World)

Prix du Jury: Red RocketSean Baker (alternate: Bergman Island – Mia Hansen-Løve)

Grand Prix: Titane – Julia Ducournau (alternate: The Divide – Catherine Corsini)

Palme d’Or: A Hero – Asghar Farhadi (alternate: The French Dispatch – Wes Anderson)

Now, it’s your turn. What do you think of our predictions? Which movie do you predict will claim the Golden Palm on Saturday? Let us know in the comments!

Associate Writer at

Formerly an associate writer for recently-retired Award Circuit, Robert Hamer is a U.S. Navy veteran and current Washington, D.C. bean-counter who spends his time obsessing over movies and pop politics.

He is returning to film and awards season commentary to return to a sense of normalcy in these plague-ridden times of rising fascism and late-stage capitalist dystopia. Join him, won't you, in these unorthodox attempts at cinematic therapy?

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  1. Quick note: these predictions were published before the initial reviews of Nitram started trickling in and singling out Caleb Landry Jones for praise. He could very well be a serious contender for the Prix d’interprétation masculine if the jury isn’t put off by the film’s disturbing subject matter.

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