Ken Loach wins big at Cannes, plus awards controversy

Feature by News Team | 23 May 2016

Despite rumours that he was to retire, Ken Loach returns to Cannes for the 13th time, winning his second Palme d’Or for stirring anti-austerity drama I, Daniel Blake

The great socialist filmmaker Ken Loach was last night announced the winner of the Palme d’Or at the 69th Cannes Film Festival for his new film I, Daniel Blake, beating off competition from the likes of Jim Jarmusch, Olivier Assayas and Nicolas Winding Refn. It’s the second time the 79-year-old has picked up the festival’s top prize, which was incongruously handed to him last night by Mel Gibson. Loach also won for The Wind that Shakes the Barley ten years ago, and this second win puts him in an exclusive club with filmmakers like Francis Ford Coppola, Michael Haneke, Shohei Imamura and the Dardenne brothers, who have won two Palme d’Ors.

Set in Newcastle, I, Daniel Blake follows a middle-aged widower who finds himself struggling to make ends meet after a heart attack leaves him unable to work – he's subsequently ground down by an uncaring benefit system. It’s reportedly a stirring attack on austerity and had many of the Cannes audience in tears.

Loach was similarly stirring when he picked up the award last night. “We must give a message of hope, we must say another world is possible,” he said. “The world we live in is at a dangerous point right now. We are in the grip of a dangerous project of austerity driven by ideas that we call neo-liberalism that have brought us to near catastrophe.”

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More from Cannes:

 Chloë Sevigny talks about Hollywood sexism

 Why Xavier Dolan doesn’t care what critics think

Cannes awards upsets

The win was something of an upset. By far the most celebrated film among critics was German comedy Toni Erdmann, from Maren Ade. A win for her would have been a refreshing change to Cannes' boys' club, as only one other woman has picked up the Palme d’Or before – Jane Campion for The Piano. There was a bigger controversy earlier in the ceremony, however, when The Grand Prix (despite the name, it’s essentially the festival's runner-up prize) was awarded to Xavier Dolan for It’s Only the End of the World, which had received a critical mauling following its press screening.

Reaction to Xavier Dolan's Grand Prix win on Twitter

Andrea Arnold wins Jury Prize

Loach wasn’t the only British winner, with Andrea Arnold winning the Jury Prize for American Honey, a road movie following a group of teenagers who sell magazine subscriptions by day and party hard by night. It’s a prize Arnold keeps on winning: she's picked it up for her two other films to have screened at Cannes, 2009’s Fish Tank and 2006’s Red Road.

The full list of winners are below

Palme d’Or
I, Daniel Blake, Ken Loach (UK)

Grand Prix
It’s Only the End of the World, Xavier Dolan (Canada)

Best Director
Olivier Assayas, Personal Shopper (France)
Cristian Mungiu, Graduation (Romania)

Best Screenplay
Asghar Farhadi, The Salesman (Iran)

Jury Prize
American Honey, Andrea Arnold (UK)

Best Actor
Shahab Hosseini, The Salesman (Iran)

Best Actress
Jaclyn Jose, Ma’ Rosa (Philippines)

Honoury Palme d’Or
Jean-Pierre Léaud

Best Short Film
Timecode, Juanjo Gimenez (Spain)