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Payal Kapadia Makes History with Grand Prix Win at Cannes 2024

Cannes 2024

In a historic moment for Indian cinema, Payal Kapadia has become the first Indian filmmaker to win the prestigious Grand Prix award at the Cannes Film Festival for her film “All We Imagine as Light.” This accolade, the festival’s second-highest honor after the Palme d’Or, was awarded during the closing ceremony on May 25, where American director Sean Baker took the Palme d’Or for “Anora.”

Kapadia’s film, which was screened on May 23, marks a significant milestone as the first Indian film in 30 years to compete in the main competition and the first ever by an Indian female director. The last Indian film to achieve this distinction was Shaji N Karun’s “Swaham” in 1994.

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Receiving the Grand Prix from American actor Viola Davis, Kapadia expressed her gratitude to the Cannes Film Festival and to the film’s leading actresses—Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, and Chhaya Kadam. “I’m very nervous, so I wrote something down. Thank you to the Cannes Film Festival for having our film here. Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film. This film is about friendship, about three very different women. Oftentimes, women are pitted against each other. This is the way our society is designed and it is really unfortunate. But for me, friendship is a very important relationship because it can lead to greater solidarity, inclusivity, and empathy,” she said.

“All We Imagine as Light,” a Malayalam-Hindi feature, tells the story of Prabha, a nurse whose life is upended by an unexpected gift from her estranged husband. Her younger roommate, Anu, struggles to find privacy in the bustling city. Together, the two nurses embark on a road trip to a beach town where a mystical forest becomes a place for their dreams to take shape. The film’s screening was met with an eight-minute standing ovation and rave reviews from international critics, making it a strong contender for the top prize.

This film marks Kapadia’s feature directorial debut. An alumna of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII), her previous work includes the acclaimed documentary “A Night of Knowing Nothing,” which won the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) award at Director’s Fortnight in 2021, and her short film “Afternoon Clouds,” which competed in the Cinefondation section.

India had a triumphant run at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival, winning major awards in each of the three competitive sections. On May 23, FTII student Chidananda S. Naik’s film “Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know…” won the La Cinef first prize. On May 24, Anasuya Sengupta made history as the first Indian to win the Best Actress prize for her role in Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov’s “The Shameless,” featured in the Un Certain Regard section.

The festival’s closing ceremony, hosted by French actor Camille Cottin, also saw Jacques Audiard win the Jury Prize for his musical crime comedy “Emilia Perez,” which garnered the best actress honor for its ensemble cast of Adriana Paz, Zoe Saldaña, Karla Sofía Gascon, and Selena Gomez.

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