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Unclenching the Fists, Kira Kovalenko’s Russian drama about a young woman struggling to escape the stifling hold of her family, has claimed the top prize in the Cannes Film Festival’s 2021 Un Certain Regard competition.
The winners were revealed in an awards ceremony held in the Debussy Theater on Friday, where other honorees included Sebastian Meise’s Great Freedom, which earned the Jury Prize, and Lamb, the Icelandic drama starring Noomi Rapace (which A24 picked up during the festival), which was awarded the Prize of Originality (one of several new entry awards this year). In the last Un Certain Regard competition in 2019, the top prize went to Karim Ainouz’s The Invisible Life of Euridice Gusmao.
This year’s Un Certain Regard competition opened with Arthur Hariri’s Onoda – 10,000 Nights in the Jungle, about a Japanese soldier who refused to surrender after the end of WWII. Other films in the 20-strong lineup featured a major assortment of on-screen talent, including Justin Chon’s immigration drama for Focus Features, Blue Bayou, starring Alicia Vikander; Kogonada’s science-fiction After Yang, starring Colin Farrell and Jodie Turner-Smith (also with A24); and Women Do Cry, starring Borat Subsequent Moviefilm breakout Maria Bakalova.
British filmmaker Andrea Arnold, who presented her documentary Cow out of competition, headed up the 2021 jury, which also included Franco-Algerian director Mounia Meddour, Cesar-winning French actress Elsa Zyblerstein, Argentine filmmaker Daniel Burman and Michael Covino, whose comedy-drama The Climb (which he wrote, produced and starred in), won the Un Certain Regard Heart prize in 2019.
The full list of 2021 Un Certain Regard winners are as follows:
Unclenching The Fists, Kira Kovalenko
Great Freedom, Sebastian Meise
Bonne Mere, Hafsia Herzi
Prize of Courage
La Civil, Teodora Ana Mihai
Prize of Originality
Lamb, Vladimir Johannsson
Noche De Fuego (Prayers for the Stolen), Tatiana Huezo
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Robert De Niro