CANNES, May 26 — Eric Randolph Anora, an explicit and often hilarious story about a New York erotic dancer, won the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival yesterday, which also saw a first-ever win for a trans actress.

Director Sean Baker was confirmed as one of the leading voices of American indie cinema with the prize, which also promises to make a star of 25-year-old Mikey Madison.

She plays a dancer who strikes gold with a wealthy client, only to face the wrath of his Russian oligarch parents.

As head of the jury, Barbie director Greta Gerwig praised Anora as an “incredible, human and humane film that captured our hearts”.

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Baker, who made the acclaimed The Florida Project” and Red Rocket, said: “This literally has been my singular goal for the past 30 years, so I’m not really sure what I’m going to do with the rest of my life.”

He dedicated the prize to all sex workers and appealed for filmmakers to “keep cinema alive”.

“This means making films intended for theatrical exhibition,” the 53-year-old said.

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“The world has to be reminded that watching a film at home while scrolling through your phone and checking emails and half paying attention is just not the way — although some tech companies would like us to think so.”

‘Harmony of sisterhood’

The 77th edition of the festival on the French Riviera saw several highly charged feminist and political movies, and lots of gore and sex.

A trans woman won best actress for the first time, as Karla Sofia Gascon took the award for her role in the audacious musical Emilia Perez, in which she plays a Mexican narco boss who becomes a woman.

The jury shared it between Gascon and her co-stars Zoe Saldana, Selena Gomez and Adriana Paz — saying they were rewarding the “harmony of sisterhood” — though only Gascon was at the ceremony.

She dedicated it to “all the trans people who are suffering”.

“We all have the opportunity to change for the better, to be better people,” she said.

“If you have made us suffer, it is time for you also to change.”

There were fewer meaty roles for men this year. Jesse Plemons took the prize for Yorgos Lanthimos’s bizarro series of short stories, Kinds of Kindness, though he was not present to accept it.

‘Deeply sad’

A devastating Iranian film about a family torn apart by the country’s recent women-led protests, The Seed of the Sacred Fig was given a special jury prize for “drawing attention to unsustainable injustice”.

Its director Mohammad Rasoulof, 51, escaped from Iran to avoid a lengthy prison sentence just before the festival.

Rasoulof said his heart was with the film’s crew, “still under the pressure of the secret services back in Iran”.

“I am also very sad, deeply sad, to see the disaster experienced by my people every day... the Iranian people live under a totalitarian regime,” he said.

The second-place Grand Prix went to All We Imagine as Light, the first Indian entry in 30 years.

It wowed critics with its poetic monsoon-set portrayal of two women who have migrated to Mumbai to work as nurses.

Emilia Perez also won the third-place Jury Prize for its French director, Jacques Audiard.

(From left) Indian actress Divya Prabha, Indian director Payal Kapadia, Indian actress Chhaya Kadam and Indian actress Kani Kusruti pose during a photocall after winning the Grand Prix for the film ‘All We Imagine as Light’. — AFP pic
(From left) Indian actress Divya Prabha, Indian director Payal Kapadia, Indian actress Chhaya Kadam and Indian actress Kani Kusruti pose during a photocall after winning the Grand Prix for the film ‘All We Imagine as Light’. — AFP pic

‘Revolution’

Best director went to Portugal’s Miguel Gomes for Grand Tour, an oblique tale about a man abandoning his fiancee and travelling around Asia.

Best screenplay went to The Substance starring Demi Moore, an ultra-gory horror film about the pressures women face to maintain bodily perfection as they age.

“What an incredible gift it has been to work with you,” writer and director Coralie Fargeat told Moore from the stage.

The film is “about women and what women can still experience in the world. We need a revolution, and I don’t think it has really started yet”, she said.

US director George Lucas. — AFP pic
US director George Lucas. — AFP pic

Star Wars creator George Lucas received an honorary Palme d’Or from his old friend Francis Ford Coppola, who competed this year with the highly divisive Megalopolis. — AFP