A simple choice, says Wong Kar-wai

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 30 May, 2006, 12:00am

Selection of Cannes festival winner unanimous: HK director

Hong Kong film director Wong Kar-wai, the first Chinese president of the Cannes Film Festival's jury, said yesterday that choosing the winning film had been surprisingly simple.

Speaking at a news conference on Sunday after the festival's Palme d'Or was awarded to The Wind That Shakes The Barley, Wong said his nine-member jury had chosen British director Ken Loach's entry unanimously. 'We thought there would be a long discussion but it took only one round of votes,' Wong said. 'It was as simple as that and it was the first award we decided upon. It was a very moving film.'

'We chose from the heart. The selection was great, which made our viewing enjoyable but our work very hard,' he said.

Among the entries that he believed deserved special mention was Summer Palace, by mainland director Lou Ye, which was entered in the competition without the approval of the central government. Although Lou went home empty-handed, Summer Palace was also singled out for praise by actor-director Tim Roth, who served on Wong's jury. Roth said: 'It really moved me. We should in some ways recognise the film.'

French director Patrice Leconte, another juror, said there had been some discussion after watching each film, but 'somewhere at the corner of our hearts, there was Ken Loach's film'. He said that the quality of the films in competition this year had been exceptional and that he felt sad that the judges were unable to give more awards.

Loach, who will turn 70 next month, was delighted to receive the top honour after travelling to the Cannes Film Festival for the 13th time.

'I didn't expect this, I was stunned,' Loach said. 'It is the story I wanted to make for nearly 10 years, and finally we've achieved it.'

The Wind That Shakes The Barley is set in Ireland in 1920 and tells the story of two brothers caught in the surge of history.

Wong's jury surprised festival audiences by giving the best actor and actress awards to the ensemble casts of Rachid Bouchareb's Days of Glory and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar's Volver respectively.

'It was for the overall performance,' Wong said of the decision.

He said that Volver was like a reunion for Almodovar's veteran actresses and that, therefore, it would have been impossible to highlight just one of them.

He said that Days of Glory was about brotherhood and that the actors' performances complemented each other, making it a collective performance.

Almodovar also won the best screenplay for Volver. Best director went to Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu for Babel.

Almodovar said that he was happy with the screenplay award, despite Volver being a favourite of the international media at Cannes.

'Screenplay is the basis, the stone of a movie. I'm very happy with this,' he said, despite looking weary and stressed throughout the award ceremony.

Spanish actress Penelope Cruz, one of the leading actresses in Volver, said that the best actress award for all five actresses was 'something special. It has never happened to us Spanish actresses before'.

French film Flandres, by Bruno Dumont, won the Grand Prix while British director Andrea Arnold won the Jury Prize for her debut feature, Red Road.

Luxury Car, by Chinese director Wang Chao, was awarded the top prize in the 'Un Certain Regard' section, which also offers a grant to aid the film's distribution in France. Climates, by Turkey's Nuri Bilge Ceylan, won the International Critics' Prize.

Sunday night's awards ceremony honoured Wong by decorating the stage with props and music from 2046, his last Cannes competition feature.

Malaysian Chinese star Michelle Yeoh was among the guests to present the awards.