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Moving Pictures

CANNES – This year’s Cannes Film Festival was marked by a profound contrast between what unfolded along La Croisette, the palm-lined sweep of pedestrian walkway that stretches between swathes of luxury hotels and the azure Mediterranean, and the films debuting onscreen.

Outside all was glitter, excess, posturing, and brand names. Young women in five-inch heels and revealing clothing prowled for wealthy men – or were imported by them to decorate boats and premiere parties. Every night, the parade of stars up the red carpet, flanked by photographers, played out like a relic of a more ritualistic time.

Inside the Palais, the hulking brutalist structure where the films are screened, this year’s lineup was filled with tales of ordinary people, or poor people, struggling with the fallout of the global issues that increasingly unite us – or confronting painful political conflicts that official histories had laid to rest. If in the past Cannes showcased films telling a hundred different kinds of stories, this year’s offerings made clear that in an increasingly flattened and wired world, there is really only one story – with a hundred different inflections.

Thai cinema’s gifted young director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s film, Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives, won the Palme d’Or. It is a Spanish-German-French-British-Thai co-production, the kind of international collaborative effort we are increasingly seeing in film – a form of cross-border collaboration that should point the way to other forms of global civil-society projects.