Spike Lee accidentally announces Titane as Palme d'Or winner at Cannes

French director Julia Ducournau (L) thanks US director and Jury President of the 74th Cannes Film Festival Spike Lee after she won the Palme d'Or for her film Titane during the closing ceremony of the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.
French director Julia Ducournau (L) thanks US director and Jury President of the 74th Cannes Film Festival Spike Lee after she won the Palme d'Or for her film Titane during the closing ceremony of the 74th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes.

The awards ceremony for the 74th Cannes Film Festival has started where it should have ended, with jury president Spike Lee mistakenly announcing that the serial killer odyssey Titane has won the festival’s top honour, the Palme d’Or.

If confirmed at the end of the show, it would make French director Julia Ducournau only the second female filmmaker to win the accolade.

Shouts and confusion ensued after Lee announced Titane, but Ducournau did not come to the stage to accept.

The ceremony continued and other awards were handed out while Lee was seen with his head in his hands.

Nadav Lapid’s Ahed’s Knee won the jury prize, while Caleb Landry Jones took home the best actor prize for his performance in Nitram.

The Croatian coming-of-age drama Murina, by Antoneta Alamat Kusijanovic, took the Camera d’Or award, a non-jury prize, for best first feature. Kusijanovic was absent from the ceremony after giving birth a day earlier.

Cannes’ closing ceremony caps 12 days of red-carpet premieres, regular Covid-19 testing for many attendees and the first major film festival to be held since the pandemic began in almost its usual form.

With smaller crowds and mandated mask-wearing in cinemas, Cannes pushed forward with an ambitious slate of global cinema. Last year’s Cannes was completely cancelled by the pandemic.

Twenty-four movies are in contention for the Palme.

The jury’s deliberations are private and unknown, but that never stops a wide spectrum of predictions, guesses and betting odds.

This year featured a strong slate of many top international filmmakers, but no movie was viewed as the clear favourite.

Among the best-received films at the festival were: Iranian director Asghar Farhadi’s portrait of honour and social media A Hero; Chadian filmmaker Mahamat-Saleh Haroun’s abortion drama Lingui; Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s meditative, Tilda Swinton-led Memoria; French director Julia Ducournau’s wild, high-octane serial-killer odyssey Titane; Sean Baker’s The Florida Project follow-up, Red Rocket; Japan’s Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s Haruki Murakami adaptation, Drive My Car; and Russian director Kirill Serebennikov’s influenza tale, Petrov’s Flu.

In 2019, the Palme went to Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, which later took best picture at the Academy Awards, too.

Only one female filmmaker has ever won Cannes top award – Jane Campion for The Piano – so a win for Ducournau or Mia Hansen-Love (Berman Island) would be history making.

If Haroun were victorious, it would be the second time a film from Africa has won.

Do The Right Thing director Lee is the first black jury president at Cannes. His fellow jury members are Maggie Gyllenhaal, Melanie Laurent, Song Kang-ho, Tahar Rahim, Mati Diop, Jessica Hausner, Kleber Mendonca Filho and Mylene Farmer.

Before the ceremony, Lee and the jury posed for photographers holding hands on the red carpet.