Sean Baker, winner of the Palme d'Or for the film 'Anora,' poses for photographers during the photo call following the awards ceremony at the 77th international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Photo by Scott A Garfitt/Invision/AP)

Sean Baker's 'Anora' Wins Palme d'Or, the Cannes Film Festival's Top Honor

Jake Coyle READ TIME: 5 MIN.

The win Saturday for "Anora" marked a coronation for Baker, the 53-year-old indie filmmaker of "The Florida Project " who used iPhones to make his 2015 film "Tangerine." It's also, remarkably, the fifth straight Palme d'Or won by specialty distributor Neon, following "Parasite," "Titane," "Triangle of Sadness" and last year's winner, "Anatomy of a Fall." Baker accepted the prize with his movie's star, Mikey Madison, watching in the audience at the Cannes closing ceremony.

"This, literally, has been my singular goal as a filmmaker for the past 30 years, so I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with the rest of my life," said Baker, laughing.

But Baker, the first American filmmaker to win the Palme since Terrence Mallick in 2011 with "The Tree of Life," quickly answered that his ambition would remain to "fight to keep cinema alive." The director said the world needed reminding that "watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone, answering emails and half paying attention is just not the way – although some tech companies would like us to think so."

"So I say the future of cinema is where it started: in a movie theater," said Baker, who dedicated his award to all sex workers "past, present and future."

The awards were chosen by the nine-member jury led by Greta Gerwig, who told reporters she was "forever changed as a filmmaker because of this experience." Gerwig praised "Anora" as having the feeling of classical cinema, saying it felt like an Ernst Lubitsch or Howard Hawks film that lead in unexpected directions.

While "Anora" was arguably the most acclaimed film of the festival, its win was a slight surprise. Many expected either the gentle Indian drama "All We Imagine As Light" or the Iranian film "The Seed of the Sacred Fig" to win. Both of those films also took home prizes.

by Jake Coyle

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