Cannes 2019: Meet The Short Film Award Winners
Who are the directors behind this year’s Cannes award-winning short films and how did they get their start?
The results are in. The Cannes film festival has officially wrapped and this was certainly one of the better lineups this decade. There are always some surprises, shocks and eye-rolls to come from the announcements, but one thing is for sure — the winners in every category will get some of the greatest international exposure of their lives. Many directors who win are hardly known by the film world outside of their native countries, but Cannes tends to change all of that. In this article, we go through the winners in the short film categories of Cannes and tell you where they came from and what projects are ahead.
Short Film Palme d’Or — “The Distance Between the Sky and Us”
Director: Vasilis Kekatos
Previous Films: The Silence of the Dying Fish (2018), Zero Star Hotel (2016), Retrograde (2015)
Who Is The Winning Director? The first Greek director to win the short film prize at Cannes, Kekatos has been anything but an overnight success. Though born and raised in Greece, he started his film training at Brunel University in London. From there, he’s been creating a steady output of shorts (almost one a year). With each new short, Kekatos has garnered new honors.
Before taking the coveted Palme d’Or, his 2018 “The Silence of the Dying Fish” played in competition at Locarno and Sundance. Cannes then, naturally, was always the next step. While “Dying Fish” had a more fantastical and absurdist premise (a man who has been pronounced dead tries to prove he is still alive), “The Distance Between the Sky and Us” is a contained piece of tense realism.
Kekatos’ range of films and depth of talent is only matched by the hardware. But his abilities also extend to the film festival world, as he is the artistic director of the SeaNema Open Air Film Festival — a festival of films that takes place completely in outdoor environments.
Short Films Special Mention — “Monster God”
Director: Agustina San Martin
Previous Films: La prima sueca (2017), No hay bestias (2015), The cry of the oxen (2015)
Who Is The Winning Director? This is Agustina’s first nomination in the film festival circuit — and what a start! This strangely illuminating short story about God as a power plant is her fourth filmic effort. In her films previous, especially her collaborative project “La Prima Sueca”, the fluid and unstable natures of identity were also explored, with answers coming from aesthetics rather than just narrative. With another short being edited and a feature on the horizon, this is certainly a director to watch.
Illy Short Film Award — “Stay Awake, Be Ready”
Director: An Pham Thien
Previous Films: The Mute (2018)
Who Is The Winning Director? In the vein of an Amores Perros or Babel (both by jury president Alejandro González Iñárritu), “Stake Awake, Be Ready” intersects multiple characters together by a single event. This Vietnamese director may very well be following in that famous auteur’s footsteps with a breathtaking seven-minute single take shot. An Pham Thien’s previous film “The Mute” was also a well-recognized achievement. It played at such big short film festivals as Palm Springs. Could this be the start of an unforgettable career? If the shorts keep coming to us this polished, that part should take care of itself.
Canal Plus Award for Short Film — “Ikki Illa Meint”
Director: Andrias Høgenni
Previous Films: Et Knæk (2016) Stina Karina (2015), Kom og dansa (2015) (see the rest of the filmography here)
Who Is The Winning Director? Andrias is a great example of someone who didn’t take the direct, linear path to short film stardom. He started by working in national television, only making his personal short films when he had a free day. However, he finally committed to being a full-time filmmaker when he moved to Denmark, where he attended the SUPER 16 Danish film school. This “non-traditional” film program puts artistic vision and original execution above all, resulting in the kind of amazing work that can end up getting recognized at Canes.
Leitz Cine Discovery Prize for Short Film — “She Runs”
Director: Qiu Yang
Who Is The Winning Director? Qiu Yang is no stranger to the Croisette, having won the Palme d’Or just two years prior for the masterful “A Gentle Night”. Truly one of the foremost visual thinkers in the world right now, Yang often takes a slow cinema approach and applies it to a short film runtime. This latest looks to be no exception, and the trailer shows Yang’s typical restraint and highly formal compositions are on display. though Chinese, Yang actually went to film school in Australia (Victorian College of the Arts), probably the hottest continent in short film production right now. A feature length version of “Under The Sun” is currently in the works.
First Prize — “Mano a Mano”
Director: Louise Courvoisier
Previous Films: “Mano a Mano” is her first short film.
Who Is The Winning Director? We talked about Courvoisier’s winning film some in our Cannes Film School Roundup coverage last week, but there is more to unpack about this incredible filmmaker’s life. She is the daughter of musicians, explaining where the artistic streak came from. As for the film’s subject matter (acrobatics)? That came from her two brothers, who both have careers in the circus.
Not unlike Charlie Chaplin, Courvoisier seemed destined for a life in the performing arts, and a CINÉFONDATION win in her first effort shows there’s much more to come from this incredible talent.
Second Prize — “Hiéu”
Director: Richard Van
Previous Films: Audition (2017), Cookie (2016)
Who Is The Winning Director? We have mentioned “Audition” in a previous article as an exemplary piece of filmmaking and are so excited to see him come back to the festival circuit on an international level. A CalArts graduate, Van (along with many other incredible filmmakers) is proving that school proud by making another strong, raw effort. This Vietnamese-American has been on a past Filmmaker Magazine’s New Face of Film list, though he’s earned the right now to be considered a staple in the arthouse short film world (with the potential for mainstream receptivity).
Third Prize (Tie) — “Ambience”
Director: Wisam Al Jafari
Previous Films: This is the director’s first short film.
Who Is The Winning Director? The unique premise of two young boys trying to create and record an authentic sound for a music competition is one of the freshest parts of the new short film arrivals to Cannes this year. Wisam Al Jafari has only made this one short film so far, but what a debut. Wisam is from Bethlehem and received a BA in Film Production from Dar Al Kalima University College.
Third Prize(Tie) — “Duszyczka” (The Little Soul)
Director: Barbara Rupik
Previous Films: Wcielenie (2017)
Who Is The Winning Director? This gonzo piece of animated storytelling is a representation of the incredible filmmaking expertise coming out of Poland right now. The Leon Schiller National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź is where Rupik currently resides as a student of Animation and Special Effects. This is her first major placement in an international film festival, but given her age and how early into her career she is, this certainly won’t be her last!