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Cannes 2021: FTII Alumna Payal Kapadia’s ‘A Night of Knowing Nothing’ Wins Best Documentary Award

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Photo Credit: Quinzaine Des Real Twitter, Cropped, Resized

Payal Kapadia, the Indian filmmaker, bagged the prestigious Oeil d’Or award for ‘Best Documentary’ presented at the Cannes Film Festival 2021. The film was up against 27 other documentaries showcased across all sections at the festival.

The announcement was made on the Twitter account of Quinzaine Des Real (Director’s Fortnight) on Saturday.

“The Oeil d’Or, the award for best documentary presented at the Cannes Film Festival all sections combined, goes to A NIGHT OF KNOWING NOTHING by Payal Kapadia, a film selected at the Directors’ Fortnight. Our warmest congratulations to Payal Kapadia and the entire film crew!” the tweet read.

A Night of Knowing Nothing was screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight section which runs alongside the main festival. The logline of the film on the official website of the Director’s Fortnight reads, “A university student in India, writes letters to her estranged lover, while he is away. Through these letters, we get a glimpse into the drastic changes taking place around her. Merging reality with fiction, dreams, memories, fantasies, and anxieties, an amorphous narrative unfolds.”

The film’s screenplay is by Payal Kapadia and Himanshu Prajapati, while it was shot and edited by Ranabir Das.

The Oeil d’Or jury was headed by American documentary producer Ezra Edelman. Others in the jury were French filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli, French actor Deborah Francois, Franco-American film critic Iris Brey, and Orwa Nyrabia, artistic director of the International Documentary Film Festival (IDFA) Amsterdam.

The award was instituted in 2015 by LaScam (the French-language writers’ society) and Bertuccelli in collaboration with the Cannes Film Festival and its general delegate Thierry Fremaux.

Kapadia’s film was competing for the award against Andrea Arnold’s Cow, Oliver Stone’s JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, Marco Bellocchio’s Marx Can Wait, Mark Cousins’ The Story of Film: A New Generation, and Rahul Jain’s Invisible Demons, among others.

A former student of the Film and Television Institute of India, Kapadia was part of the student protests in 2015, that went on for months after actor-turned-politician Gajendra Chauhan was appointed as the head of FTII. At the time, an FIR was filed against her for holding then director Prashant Pathrabe captive. However, in 2017, the institute had agreed to support her and help Kapadia get her film screened at Cannes that year even though her scholarship was cancelled.

Kapadia’s 2017 short Afternoon Clouds premiered at Cannes as a Cinéfondation selection.

According to the Director’s Fortnight website, the Mumbai-based filmmaker’s next project is All We Imagine As Light, for which she received support from the Ciclic and Hubert Bals Fund. The film is currently in development.

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