If there were ever a clear sign that the Cannes Film Festival has returned to all its pre-pandemic glory, it was the ceremony for the Palm Dog, the beloved, unofficial awards show celebrating the best canine performances across the official selection and various sidebars, held a day before Cannes hands out its Palme d’Or.
In the end, Brit, starring in Riley Keough and Gina Gammell’s Un Certain Regard movie War Pony, was the top dog, winning the main award at the 21st award ceremony on Friday with a runaway performance. In place of a trophy, the canine star, like all the four-footed winners, received the coveted embossed Palm Dog collars.
War Pony was originally called Beast, literally the name of the fluffy silver poodle at the center of the movie that gave the winning performance. Adopted by lead character Bill, Beast (Brittney, or Brit for short) is often seen patiently waiting in the back of his car or babysitting her owner’s young children as he attempts to hustle his way around the Ridge Pine Reservation in South Dakota, and provides the backstory for one of his money-making schemes (poodle breeding).
Adding some emotional depth to War Pony’s current top dog status, Beast was also the beloved pet of co-writer Bill Reddy (although Reddy’s Beast was a pit bull) and a companion whose death actually ignited the fuse that led to the film.
“He had a real connection to the dog, and it really affected us all,” Keough told The Hollywood Reporter before the festival. “And I feel like that [the day he died] kind of inspired the whole film, and we were like, let’s make a story about Beast.”
A shared Grand Jury Prize went to Marcel, the eponymous terrier of French film Marcel! that unspooled in Cannes’ Special Screenings lineup and the sheepdog from Icelandic Un Certain Regard title Godland.
The “Dogmatarian” award, for the bond between humanity and canines, went to Patron, the Ukrainian Jack Russell mine sniffer honored by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy for his service during the war that has been raging since Russia’s invasion of the country.
And the Palm Hound Dog was also awarded, named in honor of Baz Luhrmann’s rock biopic Elvis.
Palm Dog founder Toby Rose kicked off the Friday ceremony with his traditional introduction: “Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, dogs and bitches!” For the first time ever, the Palm Dog also had corporate sponsorship, with backing from web 3.0 company Dogami.
Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian also spoke at the awards ceremony, highlighting: “This award has grown from a Chihuahua to a Rhodesian Ridgeback.”