Cannes: ‘Embrace of the Serpent’ Tops Directors’ Fortnight Awards

CANNES — “The Embrace of the Serpent,” Colombian director Ciro Guerra’s visually rich, black-and-white adventure saga about the ravages of colonialism in the Amazon, won the top Art Cinema Award at the 47th Directors’ Fortnight at Cannes on Friday.

A follow-up to Guerra’s 2009 Un Certain Regard entry, “The Wind Journeys,” “Embrace of the Serpent” (which is being sold by Films Boutique) follows the parallel journeys of two different ethnologists, both searching for a rare flower deemed sacred by Colombia’s indigenous population. Along with Thursday’s honors for the Critics’ Week entries “Paulina” (from Argentina’s Santiago Mitre) and “Land and Shade” (from Colombia’s Cesar Acevedo), the victory for Guerra’s film suggests it’s been a particularly strong festival for Latin American cinema, despite initial concerns that the region might be underrepresented, at least in the official selection.

The Fortnight’s SACD Prize, presented every year to a French-language film by the Society of Dramatic Authors and Composers, was awarded to “My Golden Days,” Arnaud Desplechin’s emotionally resonant coming-of-age prequel to his 1996 Cannes entry, “My Sex Life, or … How I Got Into an Argument.” The award represents a vindication of sorts for the veteran French auteur, whose film premiered to widespread acclaim in Directors’ Fortnight after having been denied a slot in the official competition.

My Golden Days,” which is being sold internationally by Wild Bunch, marks the screen debuts of young leads Quentin Dolmaire and Lou Roy-Lecollinet. The film opened in French theaters on Wednesday.

“Mustang,” a debut feature from Turkey’s Deniz Gamze Erguven, won the Europa Cinemas Label for best European film in the Fortnight. The film, which is sold and co-produced by Kinology, is set in a remote Black Sea village where five young sisters are forced to suppress their blossoming sexuality. Cohen Media Group acquired North American rights to the film this week, following its festival screenings.

Under the leadership of artistic director Eduoard Waintrop, the Directors’ Fortnight enjoyed perhaps its buzziest, best-received selection in years, benefiting in no small part from films, like “My Golden Days,” which opted for an official-selection alternative after being turned down for competition. The program’s other major get in this regard was “Arabian Nights,” Miguel Gomes’ sweepingly ambitious six-hour trilogy about social and economic woes in his native Portugal, which screened over three separate days of the Fortnight.

Besides Desplechin, the Fortnight had another French heavyweight in Philippe Garrel, whose black-and-white adultery drama “In the Shadow of Women” was well received in its opening-night slot. Other popular titles included Jaco Van Dormael’s religious satire “The Brand New Testament”; Jeremy Saulnier’s gory thriller “Green Room”; and Fernando Leon de Aranoa’s Balkan war comedy “A Perfect Day,” starring Benicio Del Toro and Tim Robbins, which was picked up by IFC during the fest.

The program closed on Friday night with Rick Famuyiwa’s Los Angeles-set teen comedy-actioner, “Dope,” one of two Sundance 2015 titles (the other was Chloe Zhao’s “Songs My Brothers Taught Me”) that made their international bows in the Fortnight.

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