Palm Dog Award Won by Canine Star of ‘Dog on Trial’ While ‘Anatomy of a Fall’ Breakout Messi Looms Large Over Cannes

Is Messi’s reign as cinema’s current top dog over?

The Palm Dog — Cannes’ annual celebration of on-screen canine performances which was last year won by the blue-eyed border collie from “Anatomy of a Fall,” the first step in a dramatic bound toward furry fame — has crowned a new champion.

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The 2024 Palm Dog, presented at a special event on May 24, has been given to Kodi, the senior stray at the heart of acclaimed Swiss-French comedy “Dog on Trial.” The Un Certain Regard title from director and star Laetitia Dosch sees Kodi — a Belgian Malinois mix, with Brittany, Poodle, and Husky ancestry — plays Cosmos, an aggressive pet who’s taken on as a client by a defense lawyer in story exploring the status of dogs in society. According to Palm Dog founder Toby Rose, Kodi is nearing his 10th birthday and will soon retire from acting, but bow-wows out having delivered a “fine four-legged swan song.”

Meanwhile, the Palm Dog’s Grand Jury Prize went to Xin, the Jack Russell-greyhound cross in “Black Dog,” another Un Certain Regard feature with hounds at its heart. From Chinese director Guan Hu, the film stars Taiwanese actor and singer Eddie Peng as a man charged with removing stray dogs from his hometown before the Olympic Games.

“‘Black Dog’ has added significance in that the highly regarded superstar Chinese director is straying from his traditional subjects to fully embrace a canine topic,” said Rose.

Both Kodi and Xin were in Cannes to collect their winning dog collars.

First launched in 2001, the Palm Dog has become a beloved Cannes mainstay, the faithful tail-wagging companion to the serious goings on in the more official — and (slightly) more human — awards ceremony usually held the following day.

But while the Palm Dog may off a little light relief for weary festival goers, it’s also not to be sniffed at when it comes to picking out future leaders of the pack, such as “Anatomy of a Fall” star Messi.

The dog’s win in 2023 would pre-empt a meteoric rise for the mutt that saw it become the biggest celebrity guest of awards season, from the nominees luncheon to the Oscars ceremony itself, to the extent that publicists on other films complained his appearance was giving the film an unfair advantage. A year on, Messi is still lapping up the limelight, and appeared on the red carpet before Cannes’ opening night screening of “The Second Act” ahead of the likes of Meryl Streep and Greta Gerwig. The festival’s strict protocol usually restricts any four-legged access for emotional support dogs only, but Variety hears Messi was given special dispensation as he was recording scenes for a French TV comedy show and it was “not considered a red carpet operation” (one festival insider noted that Messi was “better behaved that most people on the red carpet and would be welcomed back any day”).

For a while, it looked like the 2023 edition of Cannes would be overshadowed by Messi’s still-looming presence over the canine content world. This was certainly the case in the main competition, where the pedigree of pooch performers wasn’t quite enough to get people hot under the collar. There was a dog with leg made of Francis Ford Coppola’s mysterious ‘megalon’ in his wild misfire “Megalopolis,” a white terrier in Andrea Arnold’s “Bird,” a hound ensemble in Yorgos Lanthimos’ “Kinds of Kindness” (a divisive film that featured some unfortunate dog cruelty) and Roy Cohn’s chocolate spaniel in “The Apprentice,” who bounds onto the lap of Sebastian Stan’s Donald Trump to lick his pre-presidential face.

“While it’s true that the main competition has not been awash with dogs, the official selections have seen a wealth of woof-ters,” said Rose. Not to leave out the more A-list films entirely, “Megalopolis,” “Bird” and “Kinds of Kindness” were all given “Mutt Moment” awards at the Palm Dog ceremony.

But every dog has its day and today’s is reserved for Kodi. Whether “Dog on Trial” has the legs to take him into the awards season remains to be seen, but his imminent retirement may mean that Messi needn’t worry too much about a challenger sniffing at his heels.

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