There are lots of awards at the Cannes Film Festival, but the biggest of them all is the Palme d'Or, which is awarded to the best feature film and the best short film in Competition. In general, when people refer to "the Palme d'Or," they mean the one for feature films.
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The Camera d'Or is awarded by a separate jury to the best first-time film in the entire festival, including all sections of the Official Selection, the Directors' Fortnight and International Critics' Week. By Cannes standards, a "first-time film" is at least an hour long and its director has never before made a movie of that length for the cinema or TV.
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One of the coolest things about the awards at Cannes is that they can be a little bit different every year. Juries have the freedom to add awards as they see fit, depending on the movies in the Official Selection that year. In 2000, "La Noce" by Pavel Lounguine won an award for the best ensemble of actors; in 1998, "Velvet Goldmine" by Todd Haynes was awarded the Prix de la meilleure contribution artistique au Festival International du Film -- the prize for the greatest artistic contribution to the Festival.
In 1991, Samuel L. Jackson won a best supporting actor award for his role in Spike Lee's "Jungle Fever" -- the first supporting actor award presented at the Cannes Film Festival. To view the entire archive of Cannes Film Festival awards, visit the official Web site.
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When the awards were announced, it became clear not only that this jury had pretty good taste, but that it had been interested, to some degree, in recognising films that were socially or politically aware, or somehow concerned with pressing ethical issues. But it was also evident that the jury had been keen to acknowledge the achievements both of the women directors competing for the Palme d’or, and of those younger filmmakers who were either new to or relatively recent contestants in the main competition. Indeed, the winners were pleasingly ‘diverse’ on a number of fronts.
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Of the Cannes ‘old guard’, only Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne figured among the prizewinners; they were named Best Directors for Young Ahmed – a film of no little socio-political import, since it focuses, which typically unsentimental compassion, on a 13-year-old Belgian boy who has fallen under the influence of an imam preaching a puritanical, almost extremist version of Islam.
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Some might point out that a film by another Cannes favourite was rewarded, since Pedro Almodóvar’s Pain and Glory won Antonio Banderas the Best Actor gong. The award was well deserved, though some may have rued the fact that the film’s writer-director didn’t receive anything; though Almodóvar’s movies have gleaned quite a few prizes over the years, he still hasn’t won the coveted Palme d’Or, an omission many would probably like to see remedied at some point.
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The Best Actress prize, meanwhile, went to Emily Beecham for her lead role in Jessica Hausner’s first film in the main competition, Little Joe, a fascinating fable about the politics of the workplace and motherhood; again, a very subtly nuanced performance meant that the award felt perfectly logical.