FTII alumna strong contender for Cannes film festival’s Best First Feature prize

New Delhi : Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) alumnus Payal Kapadia is in the running for the Camera d’Or, the top prize for the First Best Feature of a director at the Cannes film festival that will conclude tomorrow.

The Mumbai-born Kapadia’s debut feature film, ‘The Night of Knowing Nothing’, is part of the Directors’ Fortnight parallel selection at the Cannes festival this year. The film, which had its world premiere yesterday, is an epistolary movie set in the backdrop of the student protests.

The 97-minute film is about a university student, who writes letters to her estranged lover. In 2017, Kapadia, who studied direction at FTII, became the first FTII student to be selected to the Cannes festival’s Cinefondation competition section for film schools for her short film, ‘Afternoon Clouds’.

“This poetic first feature is at first an epistolary film, but then slowly spreads out as a hybrid narration, mixing dreams, reality, memories and archives,” says Paolo Moretti, artistic director of Director’s Fortnight. “The young Indian director Payal Kapadia transcends the documentary material and draws the portrait of a contemporary Indian youth,” adds Moretti.

Malayalam director Murali Menon is the last Indian filmmaker to have won the Camera d’Or for ‘Marana Simhasanam’ (Throne of Death) screened in Cannes in 1999. Mira Nair won the honour for ‘Salaam Bombay!’ in 1988 and Malayalam filmmaker Shaji N Karun received a Camera d’Or mention the following year for ‘Piravi’.

This year, there are 31 debut films in contention for the Camera ‘d’Or, including ten in the Cannes official selection and ten in Directors’ Fortnight.

The Camera d’Or prize will be announced at the festival closing ceremony to be held tomorrow evening. The Camera d’Or jury this year is headed by French actor Mélanie Thierry. “Nothing is as fragile or as miraculous as a first movie. This testifies to the courage and the faith of all the directors who, after such a long period of seclusion, succeeded in providing us with a window on the outside world,” says Thierry, who acted in American director Spike Lee’s 2020 Netflix release ‘Da 5 Bloods’.

Created in 1978, the Camera d’Or is awarded to the best first feature presented in the official selection and the parallel selections of the Critics Week and Directors’ Fortnight. Previous winners include Jim Jarmusch (US), Naomi Kawase (Japan) and Steve McQueen (UK).

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