Highlights from Cannes Festivals 61st season

Cannes is a term that has come to represent celebrities, new international films, recognition of actors and actresses and, of course, money and power as represented by the outrageous expenditure of capital in that southern French town.

Most U.S. theatergoers who have an interest in Cannes Film Festival events look forward to the designation of the best films and acting performances.

The titles of the awards are in French and are often confusing. But, this year a two-part film has captured the attention of the whole festival and much of the international theater world. “The Argentine” and “The Guerilla” were opened at Cannes and directed by Steven Soderbergh. They are about revolutionary icon Ernesto “Che” Guevara. The comments from U.S. commentators are predictably mixed.

“His brutal role in turning a revolutionary movement into a dictatorship goes virtually unmentioned,” said the New York Times. Leave it to the Times to inject anti-communism into the Cannes. Given the myriad of Times articles against the widening array of Communist and progressive movements in Central and Latin America, this kind of comment is to be expected. But, even with that Cold War caveat, A.O. Scott, leading Times film reviewer, had to give the impression that it was a good film. On the last day of the festival Benicio Del Toro received the best actor award for playing Che Guevara.

British filmmaker Steve McQueen (not to be confused with the American actor of the same name) received the Camera d’Or for best feature film. The film is about the Irish hunger strikers, especially Bobby Sands. It takes place in the early 1980s.

The Palme d’Or was awarded to French filmmaker Laurent Cantet. His film is about life in a French school through the eyes and life of Francios Begaudeau, whose autobiography the film is based on. To complete the picture, Begaudeau plays himself in the film. The movie won best film and the award was given to Begaudeau. The kids who are students at the school and also play themselves in the film were invited on stage. Many said it was a wonderful experience.

Actor Sean Penn chaired the awards committee this year.

At the time of the festival, Soderbergh’s film about Che still did not have a U.S. distributor. That will change soon. The next hill to climb will be for theatergoers to settle down and view a rather long film.