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‘All We Imagine as Light’ becomes first Indian film to win Grand Prix at Cannes


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Director Payal Kapadia made history by becoming the first Indian filmmaker to win the Grand Prix at the Cannes Film Festival for her film All We Imagine as Light. This award is the second-most prestigious prize of the festival, following the Palme d’Or, which was awarded to American director Sean Baker for Anora at the closing ceremony on Saturday night.

Kapadia’s film, which was screened on Thursday night, is the first Indian movie in 30 years and the first by an Indian female director to be featured in the main competition. The last Indian film selected for the main competition was Shaji N Karun’s Swaham in 1994.

Kapadia received the Grand Prix from American actor Viola Davis. In her acceptance speech, she thanked the film’s three leading actresses—Kani Kusruti, Divya Prabha, and Chhaya Kadam—saying the film would not have been possible without them.


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“I’m very nervous, so I wrote something down. Thank you to the Cannes Film Festival for having our film here. Please don’t wait 30 years to have another Indian film.

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“This film is about friendship, about three very different women. Oftentimes, women are pitted against each other. This is the way our society is designed and it is really unfortunate. But for me, friendship is a very important relationship because it can lead to greater solidarity, inclusivity and empathy,” said Kapadia, who was accompanied by the three actors on the stage.

She also expressed solidarity with the festival workers who protested at the opening night gala, demanding better wages and recognition.


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All We Imagine as Light, a Malayalam-Hindi feature, tells the story of Prabha, a nurse whose life is upended by an unexpected gift from her long-estranged husband. Her younger roommate, Anu, struggles to find privacy with her boyfriend in the bustling city. The two nurses embark on a road trip to a beach town, where a mystical forest becomes a space for their dreams to manifest. This film is Kapadia’s feature directorial debut.

The film garnered an eight-minute standing ovation and glowing reviews from international critics, making it a strong contender for the top prize.

She is an alumna of the Film & Television Institute of India (FTII). Her acclaimed documentary “A Night of Knowing Nothing” premiered at Director’s Fortnight in 2021 and won the Oeil d’or (Golden Eye) award. Her short film “Afternoon Clouds” was featured in the Cinefondation category, which supports emerging filmmakers.

India won major awards in each of the three competitive sections of the 2024 Cannes Film Festival. On Thursday (23), FTII student Chidananda S. Naik’s film Sunflowers Were the First Ones to Know… won the La Cinef first prize. On Friday (24), Anasuya Sengupta made history by becoming the first Indian to win the best actress prize at Cannes for her role in Bulgarian director Konstantin Bojanov’s The Shameless.

Other Indian films selected for the Cannes Competition segment over the years include Mrinal Sen’s Khrij (1983), M S Sathyu’s Garm Hava (1974), Satyajit Ray’s Parash Pathar (1958), Raj Kapoor’s Awaara (1953), V Shantaram’s Amar Bhoopali (1952), and Chetan Anand’s Neecha Nagar (1946).


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