|Zac Ephron Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey in Lee Daniel's The Paperboy (2012)|
I was on the Queer Palm jury in 2012, an extraordinary life experience that included being on the Red Carpet at Cannes. The feature film Queer Palm went to Lawrence Anyways by Xavier Dolan- not my choice. With all respect to my esteemed and beloved colleagues, I had wanted this special award to go to Lee Daniel's Paperboy that brilliantly shows the intersectionality of racism, sexism and homosexuality. Matthew McConaughey (David Ward) plays a closeted gay journalist who along with Yardley Acheman (David Oyelowo) is hired by Charlotte Bless (Nicole Kidman) to help exonerate her client. She has fallen in love with death row inmate Hillary von Etter (John Cusack). The jury was given a special screening of this film on the last day of the Cannes festival, a memorable farewell to our film troupe that was fun, lively, outrageous and visionary.
What happened after our decision for the best feature film - a decision made in a lively and painstakingly careful deliberation, further confirms to me why Dolan should have been passed up. In an arrogant gesture that not only ridiculed the meaning of this important addition to the Cannes honors, Dolan refused to accept it. He was not pushed to pick it up, as he claims. We were told he just wouldn't show by his producer - that he didn't want it. That's fine if he didn't, however afterwards he was quoted as saying:
That such prizes even exist disgusts me. What progress is there to be made with awards so marginalizing, so ostracizing, that claim that films made by gays are gay movies? We divide with these categories. We fragment the world into hermetic little communities. I didn't collect the Queer Palm. They still want me to. Never! Homosexuality can be addressed in my films or not.A short essay written four years later by Ursula Grisham, the head curator of the film distributor Filmatique, illuminates what is important about a queer film award in "Xavier Dolan & the Queer Palm: Cinema as Art vs. Artifact".
The purpose of queer awards at film festivals is not to marginalize; it is to integrate, to make visible, to offer an outlet through which these stories may be witnessed, discussed, and told.I was actually glad to not have to give this award to a filmmaker whose views seem like internalized homophobia, Short film Queer Palm winner Benjamin Parent for It's Not a Cowboy Movie was on hand to make the closing ceremony memorable. The jury made a short film I directed - Death Quest in the venue where the awards were held.
|Death Quest, with Queer Palm Jury © 2012 Moira Sullivan|
As for Lee Daniels, I spoke with him and his proud family at the American Center Pavilion at Cannes and told him that The Paperboy was brilliant and in my opinion, should have won. He deserved not only the award for what it means, but what his film means to queer spectators all over the world. Dolan will be remembered for his disservice to the Queer Palm and queer spectators always. Lee Daniels will be remembered as the man who consistently makes great films with queer characters and is proud of them.