Cannes Directors’ Fortnight Section Sets Festival’s First Audience Award, in Honor of Chantal Akerman

The Cannes Directors’ Fortnight program has always done things a little differently than the rest of the vaunted film festival, and this year will be no different. The independent section is preparing to give out the first audience award in the history of the festival. Even better? It’s designed to honor beloved Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman.

Launched in 1969 and held alongside the Cannes Film Festival each year, Directors’ Fortnight has consistently been one of the more audience-friendly elements of Cannes, and has always been open to the public. As part of its 2024 edition, those audience will now get to vote on the just-announced People’s Choice Award, which is being supported by the Fondation Chantal Akerman and will award the filmmaker of the winning feature €7,500 (about $8,100 USD today), which will be presented at the closing ceremony.

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Each year, “in addition to professionals and other accredited guests, the Fortnight opens its doors to thousands of cinephiles from around the world, in order to share its selection in a welcoming setting, giving filmmakers the opportunity to meet the first audience for their films, and the audiences a chance to take part in Q&As with film teams,” the announcement to media reads. Now those audiences will be able to vote for the first audience award in Cannes history.

In true Directors’ Fortnight fashion, today’s announcement also advises that the “absence of competition between filmmakers is a value we hold dear. It encourages a spirit of sharing and listening, and nurtures each filmmaker and their film.”

In that vein, the People’s Choice award is not “a prize for the ‘best’ film in the selection, but rather as an affirmation of a unique cinematic proposition embracing individuality and freedom of cinematographic expression. The People’s Choice is a mark of achievement designed to help this filmmaker and their film find further audiences, thereby giving a boost to a surprising film that has particularly captivated festival viewers. It is in this spirit that we invite our audiences to take part.”

The backing of the Fondation Chantal Akerman is viewed as both an expression of what Directors’ Fortnight hopes to see from its winners and of Akerman’s “long history” with the section. The filmmaker, who passed away in 2015, screened a number of her films in the section, including the premiere of her “Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce – 1080 Brussels,” which was recently voted the best film in the history of cinema by Sight and Sound, plus her “Golden Eighties” (1986), “Sud” (1999), “La Captive” (2000), and “Tombée de Nuit sur Shanghaï” (2007).

This year’s Cannes Film Festival will run May 14-25.

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