Predicting the Oscar winners is a normally straightforward affair, with clear favourites emerging from the pack in most categories. Pre-guessing the prizes at the Cannes Film Festival is, however, a near-impossible task.
For starters, some years a film will clearly win by consensus, the most recent example being 2015’s Palme d’Or winner, Dheepan. There were clearly better and/or braver films in competition – Todd Haynes’ Carol and László Nemes’ Son Of Saul – but each, reportedly, had a stubborn dissenter or two in the pack of otherwise enamoured jurors. The solution? To opt for the film that nobody adored but everybody valued.
By that rationale, I, Daniel Blake – a righteous howl of fury against Britain’s broken welfare system – could scoop social-realism stalwart Ken Loach a second Palme d’Or to add to his 2006 gong for The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Its style is sparse and deceptively simple, its story beats traditional, but it is a film that either breaks you completely or at least elicits great admiration for its courage and conviction.
But wait… what about the times when you get a curveball choice that clearly reflects the particular tastes of the Jury President? Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives is a beautiful and playful film that blends fantasy, reality and spirituality, but would it have scooped the Palme d’Or without Tim Burton’s idiosyncratic taste guiding the 2010 jury?
But what really makes the prizes at Cannes impossible to call is the festival’s edict that they should be spread out, with no one movie winning more than a single award. So what happens, for example, when you get a bravura picture like this year’s three-hour German comedy Toni Erdmann? A tale of father-daughter estrangement that seamlessly morphs genres and moods to continually wrong-foot viewers, it would be no surprise to see it win the Palme d’Or or any of the Director (Maren Ade), Actor (Peter Simonischek) or Actress (Sandra Hüller) prizes. Whichever gong the jury plump for, it then sets off a chain reaction as other films pinball into contention for the absent prizes, with god only knows how many permutations possible.
Finally, the prizes are impossible to predict simply because of the amount of quality on display, this year more than most. This is especially true in the Actress category, with 11 of the 21 competition films focusing on female-centric narratives. There are at least six exceptional turns on offer: Sandra Hüller in Toni Erdmann, Sasha Lane in American Honey, Sonia Braga in Aquarius, Adele Haenel in The Unknown Girl, Kristen Stewart in Personal Shopper, Ruth Negga in Loving, and Isabelle Huppert in Elle.
But enough waffle, and no more covering our asses when we’re undoubtedly proved wrong. Here are our predictions for the prizes at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival: