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A Celebration of Film Artistry

This year’s Cannes Film Festival has just drawn to a close, with the 2024 Palme d’Or being awarded to American filmmaker Sean Baker for his wild tale of a Brooklyn lap dancer in Anora. Yet, closer to home, the British contingent was as diverse as it was exciting. In competition, Andrea Arnold, a former guest at the Aesthetica Short Film Festival, unveiled her social realist fable Bird. Starring Barry Keoghan, Franz Rogowski and superb newcomer Nykiya Adams, Arnold finds beauty in the North Kent setting, despite her characters living on the fringes of poverty.

Premiering in Director’s Fortnight, the BFI and Film4-backed Sister Midnight is a droll Mumbai-set comedy that explores the topic of at modern-day arranged marriage. Radhika Apte plays Uma, who gets hitched to a man she barely knows and undergoes a strange transformation during their union. Despite wearing influences that range from Jim Jarmusch to Wes Anderson, debut director Karan Kandhari manages to craft a fable that is filled with unique innovations.

Also in India, this time in the rural north, was the BBC Film-backed Santosh, a slow-burn police procedural from writer-director Sandhya Suri. Playing in Un Certain Regard, this gripping feature stars Shahana Goswami as the titular police constable, who inherits the job after her husband dies, and is left to investigate the rape and murder of a low-caste girl.

Another BBC Film shown in the same strand was September Says, the directorial debut of Ariane Labed. Based on the book Sisters by Daisy Johnson, it tells of siblings September (Pascale Kann) and July (Mia Tharia). When September is suspended, the family takes a holiday in Ireland. However, rebellion is never far away in this coming-of-ager.

In the short films competition, the Palme d’Or went to Nebojša Slijepčević for The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent. Set in 1993 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the 14-minute short tells the true story of a man – the only one of 500 passengers – who stands up to paramilitary forces when they board a train as part of an ethnic cleansing operation. There was also a Special Mention for Daniel Soares and his thought-provoking short Bad For A Moment. This short follows the events that take place when the owner of an architect’s studio comes face-to-face with members of the lower-class neighbourhood his company is actively gentrifying. Two worthy winners, in a festival full of them.

Words: James Mottram


  1. Bird (2024), dir. Andrea Arnold
  2. September Says (2024), dir. Ariane Labed
  3. The Man Who Could Not Remain Silent (2024), dir. Nebojša Slijepčević