'Le Grand Soir' takes Jury Prize

Michel Franco’s study of violence in Mexican society, “After Lucia,” won the Un Certain Regard Prize at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday.

The Un Certain Regard Jury Prize went to France’s Benoit Delepine and Gustave Kervern’s “Le Grand Soir.” Belgian’s Emilie Dequenne and Canada’s Suzanne Clement shared best actress for their perfs in “Our Children” and “Laurence Anyways” respectively. “Children of Sarajevo,” from Bosnia’s Aida Begic, took a special distinction.

Via the awards, the Un Certain Regard jury, led by president Tim Roth, cannily highlighted four major titles that had drawn some of the biggest buzz from contenders where a majority of films played well.

Following debut “Ana & Daniela,” Franco’s “After Lucia” also shows a step-up in scale and ambition shared by “Sarajevo” and “Laurence” and other Un Certain Regard standouts such as Argetinean Pablo Trapero’s “White Elephant” and Moroccan Nabil Ayouch’s “Horses of God.”

With Chilean Pablo Larrain’s “No” grabbing the biggest section sponsors’ award in Directors’ Fortnight Friday, it also marks the second Latin American film in a row to win a major section at Cannes. Even Critics’ Week winner “Aqui y alla,” though directed by Antonio Mendez Esparza, was set in a Mexican village.

“There an enormous number of vibrant Latin American filmmakers now coming out of Latin America,” Cannes topper Thierry Fremaux enthused to Variety after the Un Certain Regard awards ceremony.

Produced by Franco’s label Pop Films and Mexican heavyweights Lemon Films and Filmadora Nacional, “Lucia” chronicles the increasingly drastic consequences of a girl’s being bullied at high-school. Doing so, it touches Mexico’s hot-button issue: violence.

“In Mexico, we’re going into some sort of civil war now so it’s not surprising I ended up writing something like this,” Franco commented.

Gilles Sousa at sales agency Bac Films said it had received multiple offers for “Lucia” but had waited for the Un Certain Regard awards before closing deals.

“Le Grand soir” marks a return to form for French comic duo Delepine and Kervern (“Louise-Michel”), in a typical piece of banter-laden knockabout farce with social point. Here Belgian’s Benoit Poelvoorde plays a middle-aged punk and Albert Dupontel his emotionally buttoned but increasingly disaffected laid-off sibling.

In “Our Children,” which is being seen on the Croisette as a breakthrough for Belgian director Joachim Lafosse, Dequenne carries the second half of proceedings as a young mother-of-four overwhelmed to the point of horrifying tragedy by multiple circumstances.

Clement plays a straight woman embroiled in a roller-coaster love affair with a male-to-female transsexual in “Laurence Anyways,” Xavier Dolan’s gorgeously-lensed ’90s-set meller.

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