Nur Bilge Ceylan
Nuri Bilge Ceylan (Winter Sleep)

The Cannes Film Festival acknowledged a new generation and the future of film, both on stage and off, as its jury of filmmakers and actors presented prizes tonight in the Palais.

Nuri Bilge Ceylan, the acclaimed Turkish director, won the Palme d’Or tonight—the festival’s top prize—for his latest, Winter Sleep. He used his moment in the spotlight to salute his fellow citizens and raise awareness for those who have suffered back home.

Ceylan dedicated his prize “to the young people of Turkey, those who lost their lives during the last year.” Backstage after the ceremony, he elaborated in a brief interview: “These people sacrificed their lives for our future—they deserved this dedication.”

Winter Sleep, inspired by Chekhov’s short stories, is a film that Ceylan, by his own account, was afraid to make. He lacked the confidence to tell this story until after he made Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (which won the Jury Grand Prize here in 2011).

“My starting point is generally to try to understand the dark side of my soul, and that means human nature as well,” Ceylan said.

Alice Rohrwacher
Alice Rohrwacher (The Wonders)

Jury president Jane Campion—seated backstage alongside Gael García Bernal, Carole Bouquet, Sofia Coppola, Willem Dafoe, Leila Hatami, Jeon Do-yeon, Jia Zhang-ke, and Nicolas Winding Refn immediately after the ceremony—praised Ceylan’s Winter Sleep as ruthless and powerful. She admitted to being a bit afraid going in, daunted by the film’s three-hour runtime.

But she seemed quite taken with the movie, saying: “I could have stayed there for another couple of hours.”

“I see it like a Chekhov story where the characters torture each other but very cleverly,” Campion continued. “I saw myself in all of them. I thought it was very sophisticated.” She added: “If I had the guts to be as honest as this director about his characters, I’d be proud of myself.”

Italian writer-director Alice Rohrwacher won the runner-up award, the Grand Prix, for The Wonders, while Bennett Miller was awarded the best director prize for Foxcatcher. The prize for best screenplay went to Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin for Leviathan.

The jurors spoke at length about the two films that shared the Jury Prize, the festival’s third-place honor. The award went to both the oldest and youngest directors in competition this year: Jean-Luc Godard (83) for Goodbye to Language and Xavier Dolan (25) for Mommy.

Xavier Dolan
Xavier Dolan (Mommy)

“You can feel the passion and freedom inside of their bodies,” said Jia Zhang-ke, full of praise for both films.

“I love Mommy so much,” said Jane Campion, calling it “a great modern film” and saying she loved the experience of watching it. Of Goodbye to Language, she enthused: “The fact that he throws narrative away, it’s like a poem. I found myself awakened. This was a free man.”

“We know we owe a lot of our lifeblood to Godard,” noted Campion. “It’s so wonderful that we’ve had this opportunity to heartfully give him a prize. We wished the dog [from the film] would have come and got it—we would have given him the golden bone.”

Nicolas Winding Refn shared her enthusiasm and broadened it to include all of the films the jury honored tonight. The Danish director, who has been in competition at Cannes in recent years with Only God Forgives and Drive, spoke highly of the competition.

“[These films] were very much about the future of cinema,” Refn praised backstage tonight. “Films that were very much about what cinema will eventually become.”

Emotional and smiling broadly later in the same room, 25-year-old Quebec director Xavier Dolan beamed: “I hope this prize will inspire people.”

Full list of Cannes winners:

Palme d’Or
Winter Sleep, directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Best Director
Bennett Miller, Foxcatcher

Grand Prix
The Wonders, directed by Alice Rohrwacher

Best Screenplay
Leviathan, Andrey Zvyagintsev and Oleg Negin

Camera d’Or for Best First Feature
Party Girl, directed by Marie Amachoukeli, Claire Burger, and Samuel Theis

Jury Prize (tie)
Goodbye to Language, directed by Jean-Luc Godard
Mommy, directed by Xavier Dolan

Best Actress
Julianne Moore, Maps to the Stars

Best Actor
Timothy Spall, Mr. Turner

Prix Un Certain Regard
White God (Fehér isten), directed by Kornél Mundruczó

Directors’ Fortnight Prize
Love at First Fight (Les Combattants), directed by Thomas Cailley

International Critics’ Week Prize
The Tribe, directed by Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy