Hanna Laslo wins best actress award at Cannes Film Festival

CANNES – Israeli actress Hanna Laslo received the best actress award at the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday for her role in the latest film of Israeli director Amos Gitai, “Free Zone.” This is the first time an Israeli actor has received the prize since 1967, when Oded Kotler received the best actor award for his role in Uri Zohar’s film “Three Days and a child.” In Gitai’s film, Laslo charmingly portrays a woman from a moshav who travels to a free trade zone in Jordan to retrieve a large sum of money owed to her and her husband by an unnamed character known only as “the American.” She is accompanied on the journey by a young woman, played by Natalie Portman. In Jordan, the two women meet a Palestinian woman, played by Hiam Abbas, who joins their road trip through the Middle East. An emotional Laslo received the award from British actor Ralph Fiennes, to whom she signaled by tapping on her cheek that she expected a kiss from him. Fiennes obliged with a broad smile. In her speech, Laslo said she could not believe she was standing on stage, thanked director Amos Gitai and dedicated the prize to her mother, an Auschwitz survivor, and to all other living survivors. She also made a plea for peace in the Middle East, and was received with thundering applause by the audience which included Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Fanny Ardan, Penelope Cruz and many other stars. This was the first time a film by Gitai, who has competed four times at Cannes, has won a prize. The prize is not only a matter of prestige, but has financial importance, enhancing the film’s marketability. Actor Tommy Lee Jones won the award for Best Actor for his lead in the first film he also directed “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.” Written by Mexican screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga, the film also took the award for best screenplay. The Golden Palm Award, the biggest prize awarded at Cannes, was given to the Belgian film “The Child” by sibling filmmakers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, which tells the story of a young couple struggling to deal with their newborn child. The Jury’s Grand Prize was awarded to Jim Jarmusch for his film “Broken Flowers,” with Bill Murray playing a man who discovers for the first time that he had a child 19 years earlier. Best Director was awarded to Austrian filmmaker Michael Haneke for his film “Hidden,” which was critically acclaimed, and which received the international critics award at a separate ceremony. In the film, Daniel Auteil and Juliette Binoche play a bourgeois couple whose lives are menaced by a series of videotapes sent by a stranger. The Jury Prize was awarded to Chinese director Wang Xiaoshuai for his film “Shanghai Dreams.” The jury this year was headed by Emir Kusturica, who was assisted in his choices by actress Salma Hayek, American author Toni Morrison, French directors Benoit Jacqot and Agnes Varda, Indian actress Nandita Vas and others. BPI-info