The Cannes Film Festival, which commenced on May 11, distinguishes itself with the CamÃ©ra d'Or, a recognition on the best first full-length feature by a filmmaker. Some film enthusiasts are a know-them-all lot, arguing that other international competitions (like Sundance) also put the spotlight on the upstarts. But the past winners of the CamÃ©ra d'Or might change their mind. Let's have a look:
Salaam Bombay! (1988) by Mira Nair. The underbelly can be a good setting for a good film, but Mira Nair's feature stands out for many reasons. India is the home of Bollywood Cinema, which can be a form of escapism for local fans. It's not hard to figure out the reason. India, which lures tourists, is also known for its abject poverty. Nair's compassionate eye would contrast to the cynical adult characters (in the movie). And you must have a heart of stone if you didn't break down (and cry) during the final scenes. Not if you witnessed despair beforehand.
Toto the Hero (1991) by Jaco Van Dormael. There were similarities to "Brazil", but it would be pointless to ask Jaco Van Dormael if he was a huge fan of Terry Gilliam. Who was Alfred Kant? He might be a renowned figure during the Enlightenment. He could be a World War II hero. He may be one of the founding fathers of Belgium. For Toto, Alfred was somebody. Both men were born on the same place on the same day. And there might be a switch. The Belgian filmmaker was relentless in his use of flashbacks, which wasn't tiresome at all. On the contrary, it created a what-might-have-been premise that moviegoers could relate to. Don't be surprised if you would end up envious of Alfred Kant. And you wondered why you kept on watching films all these years. Nothing beats the real thing.
The White Balloon (1995) by Jafar Panahi. Patience would be required to watch this film. Jafar Panahi was deliberate in his pacing, as he wanted his viewers to notice every details in every scene. And they would be rewarded. After (almost) an hour and a half, they wouldn't recall Iranian New Year. They wouldn't call it an Iranian film, as any viewer could relate to the themes. There's something about childhood innocence that would delight them, even humble them at times.
Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner (2001) by Zacharias Kunuk. The premise would make some moviegoers recall the Biblical tale of Abel and Cain, but the story was set in the Arctic wilderness. For viewers, it was like being kicked off their comfort zone. A quite original picture, without a doubt.
Seaside (2002) by Julie Lopes-Curval. French Cinema would be renowned for mundane existence. This could put off viewers, as only the discerning eyes could appreciate such films. Julie Lopes-Curval's attempt on depicting the life of regular folks in a seaside town might be discomforting at first, but they needed to challenge themselves. It would turn out to be an insightful journey.