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Cannes 2004: Moore gets Golden Palm

Michael Moore's devastating critique of U.S. President George Bush, "Fahrenheit 9-11", walked away with the top Golden Palm Award at the 57th Cannes International Film Festival.

The Festival ended on May 23, 2004, and the nine-member jury, headed by Quentin Tarantino, went to great lengths at a Press conference that followed the awards ceremony to deny that the Palm was given away on political considerations.

But, we know the truth. Most movie critics at Cannes agreed that Moore's documentary was, while being a brutally honest attempt at exposing an immoral President, by no means a piece of cinematic art or excellence. There were far better films in Competition that were ignored by Tarantino and his team.

Emir Kusturica's "Life is a Miracle", a powerful though entertainingly narrated anti-war picture, was perhaps the most deserving entry for the Golden Palm. What about Agnes Jaoui's "Look at Me", a delightful piece of celluloid that combines drama and emotion in a perfect ratio ?

Tarantino and his fellow jurors could not perhaps care less about the artistic merits of cinema: what they were exercised about was an agenda to push a political message across the world, and at Cannes this summer, they succeeded admirably.Although the awards night was one of many surprises, Moore's victory outdid all of them. One, Cannes has been notoriously indifferent to documentaries. "Fahrenheit 9-11" was one of the only three non-fiction movies placed in Competition in nearly 50 years.

Moore's documentary, which does not yet have an American distributor, has already stirred passions in America, and people are already talking about how this film could ruin the chances of Bush's re-election this year, 2004.

This movie open's a Pandora's Box: it clearly reveals the link between Bush's family and Saudi Royals, some of whom are closely connected with Osama bin Laden and his relatives. About 20-odd relatives of bin Laden were allowed to escape from the U.S. just days after September 9, 2001.And with Moore having the right to update his documentary, he would certainly want to add some  more footage on merican military atrocities in Iraq. This would further expose Bush.

The jury's other decisions ranged far and wide over the competitive slate. The Grand Prize, the second most important in the Festival, went to Park Chan-Wook's "Old Boy", an action-filled South Korean revenge extravaganza.

The Thai film, Apichatpong Weerasethakul's "Tropical Malady", a dreamy fable that irritated me with its slow pacing, shared the Special Jury Prize with Irma P. Hall, the landlady in Joel and Ethan Coen's "The Ladykillers". It was the first time that Cannes had a Thai entry in Competition, and it was also the first time that this award was shared by an actor/actress.

There was one more first at Cannes: Yuuya Yagira, the 14-year-old protagonist in Hirokazu Kore-Eda's "Nobody Knows" (from Japan), got the Best Actor Palm.

The prize was Directing was given to Tony Gatlif, an Algerian-born French movie-maker, for "Exiles", a ragged, sexy road picture about a young couple's journey across Europe and North Africa.

Agnes Jaoui, the helmer of the sophisticated French comedy, "Look at Me", shared the Screenplay Award with her former husband, Jean-Pierre Bacri, who appears with her in the film. Maggie Cheung, who plays an addict trying to reform, was adjudged the Best Actress in Oliver Assayas's "Clean".

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