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Cannes, the Neon Film Festival

Sean Baker won his fifth consecutive Palme d'Or with his film "Anora" for the NEON studio at Cannes.

This achievement is particularly noteworthy because NEON was founded only seven years ago, in 2017, and within a few years became one of Hollywood’s most consistent independent distributors. It began its triumphant run at Cannes just two years after its founding: since 2019, it has consistently won the Palme d’Or at festival after festival: after “Parasite” (2019), “Titane” (2021), “Triangle of Sadness” (2022), and “Anatomy of a Fall” (2023), this year their story about an American sex worker received the honor at Europe’s most famous film festival. It’s important to note that in 2020, the festival was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so in the past six years, NEON has taken home the prestigious award. Aside from the rather extreme “Titane,” all these films were later nominated for the Oscars, and Baker’s new film will likely follow suit.

2019: Parasite

The 72nd festival’s jury president, Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu, said before announcing the award that the jury’s decision was “completely democratic and unanimous.” The first South Korean film to win the Palme d’Or, it centers on wealth disparities. The film starts humorously in a squalid basement apartment, where two young adult children try to bring their parents back into “money-making mode.” The parents deviate from their usual methods, and the family concocts a cunning plan for their livelihood. The screenplay is based on a play Bong Joon-ho wrote in 2013, which he later adapted into a 15-page film outline, split into three drafts by co-writer/producer Han Jin-won. Among its numerous accolades, “Parasite” became the first non-English language film to win the Oscar for Best Picture, also winning Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and Best International Feature Film. It was the first South Korean film to win an Oscar and one of only three films to win both the Palme d’Or and the Oscar for Best Picture.

2021: Titane

French director Julia Ducournau’s second feature film, “Titane,” stars Vincent Lindon and newcomer Agathe Rousselle. Ducournau returned to Cannes five years after her debut film “Raw” won the FIPRESCI Prize. She is only the second woman to win the Palme d’Or and the first to win it solo, following Jane Campion, who won in 1993 for “The Piano.” In 2018, 82 women, including Agnès Varda, Cate Blanchett, and Salma Hayek, protested gender inequality on the Cannes red carpet.

2022: Triangle of Sadness

Ruben Östlund’s masterfully grotesque satire hilariously mocks the super-rich on a debauched cruise. The theme is not unfamiliar to the director, as he successfully explored it in his 2017 film “The Square,” which won his first Palme d’Or. In “Triangle of Sadness,” Östlund targets Instagram models and super-rich cruise tourists. The film’s title refers to the wrinkle between the eyebrows that the wealthy often remove. The film was later nominated for three Oscars: Best Picture, Director, and Screenplay.

The Mail & Guardian

2023: Anatomy of a Fall

Justine Triet’s second film is a gripping crime drama about a writer who must defend herself in court when she becomes the prime suspect in her husband’s “murder.” The film evolves from a procedural drama into a courtroom drama. Released in France on August 23, 2023, it received critical acclaim, sold over 1.9 million tickets in the country, and won six awards at the 49th César Awards, including Best Film. The film also received five Oscar nominations at the 96th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director (Triet), Best Actress (Hüller), and won Best Original Screenplay.

2024: Anora

The New York romantic dramedy “Anora” tells the story of a Brooklyn stripper who transforms into a modern Cinderella when she meets the son of a Russian oligarch. “Literally, this has been my sole goal as a filmmaker for the past 30 years, so I don’t really know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life,” Sean Baker said laughingly. He is the first American filmmaker to win the Palme since Terrence Malick (“The Tree of Life,” 2012). Baker quickly added that his ambition remains to “fight to keep cinema alive.” The 53-year-old director believes the world needs to be reminded that “watching a film at home while scrolling on our phones, replying to emails, and half-paying attention is simply not right, although some tech companies would like us to think otherwise.”