Cannes Awards Are Going to the Dogs
Who won this year’s Palm Dog (er, Palme d’Og) Award?
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The starriest ceremony at Cannes this year wasn’t the premiere of Todd Haynes’s long awaited May/December or this summer’s newly anointed television hatewatch, Max’s The Idol — it was the Palm Dog, the festival’s yearly alternative award, which gives accolades to the best dog in a film at the festival. A play on the festival’s top award, Palme d’Or, can be given either to a dog in a live or animated performance. The winner is gifted a bespoke leather collar with the image of a husky wearing a bowtie embossed on it, per Vulture. This year’s winner of said collar is Messi, is a Border Collie who plays a significant role in Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall, which also won the Palme d’Or.
Triet is the third woman in the history of the awards to win the top prize. Co-written with Arthur Harari, the film follows a woman who is brought to trial after the mysterious death of her husband. Messi’s performance as Snoop has been lauded by critics, with the Palm Dog jury saying “that [performance] covers the gambit… one of the best we’ve ever seen.” Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Triet acknowledged how pivotal Messi’s performance was as part of the cast saying, “[Messi] was not just another character or some animal running around [but] as much a part of the film’s ensemble as any of the other actors.” While Messi became the top dog this year, there was stiff competition at the festival.
Why Messy Won This Year’s Palm Dog Award
Toby Rose, Palm Dog’s founder, told The Hollywood Reporter that this was a tremendous year in terms of talent.
“This Cannes is absolutely chock-a-block with bowzers,” Rose said. “We feel like we have an embarrassment of choice — l’embarras du choix — as the French would say.” Another pup with a buzzy performance was Dilla in Jonathan Glazer’s The Zone of Interest, the holocaust drama, which won the Grand Prix. But there are also hunting dogs in May/December. Aki Kaurismaki’s Fallen Leaves centers around caring for a pooch, and Ken Loach’s The Old Oak features Lola who plays Marra, the beloved pet of the owner of The Old Oak. As with any major festival win, Anatomy of a Fall, is now gaining awards buzz, which will mean it’s likely that we’ll be hearing about the film (and Messi’s performance) until next awards season.
The History of The Palm Dog Awards
The Palm Dog started as a fun award alternative in 2001, but has become a Cannes fixture and an increasingly sought-after award with a jury made up of influential film critics. Rose initially began the Palm Dog as a joke inspired by his own dog, a Fox Terrier named Mutt, who has since died. For the past 22 years, Rose has created a beloved tradition within the festival but also a new way of appreciating animal performances in cinema. And that influence has grown in the breadth of the event’s reach — this year’s “gala” was sponsored by cryptocurrency company Dogami and attended by the press. More often than not, the film’s human stars will attend the event. In 2019, Quentin Tarantino accepted the Palm Dog for Sayuri, who played Brandy in Once Upon a Time...in Hollywood.
The Palm Dog’s results actually seems to be a pretty good reflection of the films that will take center stage in an awards season. Think back to 2011, when The Artist was a major awards frontrunner. Uggie, the adorable Jack Russell Terrier who stars in the film, was everywhere and had previously won the Palm Dog for his performance. Jaro, who played the role of Bob in the Colin Farrell dystopian dating drama The Lobster, won in 2015. 2018’s Diamantino rightfully won a cast prize for the 12 pups who are rendered as huge Pekingese pups in the film. And one of the most heartbreaking pooch performances was acknowledged in 2008’s Kelly Reichardt drama Wendy and Lucy. Michelle Williams, who starred in the film, found her scene partner in Reichardt’s own dog, who played Lucy.
Humans Get Awards at the Palm Dog, Too
Each year, the Palm Dog Awards continue to evolve. While the festival didn’t happen in 2020 because of COVID-19, recent years have brought with them new awards to help honor other achievements of dogs and animals in cinema. One of those each year is the PalmDogManitarian Award. This year, it went to Isabella Rossellini for her longtime animal activism.
This year, the awards added “The Mutt Moment” for the best cameo for a dog. That one was awarded to Alice Rohrwacher’s La Chimera. The “Highly Commended Canine” went to Susie in Vincent Must Die. And perhaps the most influential new award of this year is the Lifetime Achievement Award, which went to director Ken Loach. The 86-year-old director came to this year’s Cannes saying The Old Oak could very likely be his last film. He’s previously won the Palm DogManitarian Award for highlighting dogs in his films. So, it makes sense he received the Lifetime Achievement Award for “the bond between human and animals and for canines in particular.” The star of The Old Oak, Dave Turner and Marra (who played Lola) accepted the award over Zoom.
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Kerensa Cadenas is a writer based in New York. She’s previously worked at The Cut, Thrillist, Cosmopolitan, and Complex. Her work has been featured in Vulture, GQ, Vanity Fair, and others.