While filmmakers wait to find out who will take home cinema’s top prize this weekend, the Cannes Palme d’Or, perhaps an even more popular award was handed out today – the Palm Dog, for the Best Performance by a Dog in a Motion Picture.
As Cannes turns 75, the Palm Dog turned 21 this year. What started as a low-key event by British journalist Toby Rose and his critical friends is now a beach ceremony with global media in attendance, as well as sponsors, plus an embossed collar for the award-winning pup – but keeps it’s always his whole sense of pleasure.
This year’s winner is a silver poodle from the film War Pony, directed by actress Riley Keough and Australian filmmaker Gina Gammell. The film was presented this year in the Un Certain Regard section of the festival.
One of the film’s most beloved characters, which is set on a Native American reservation, the poodle, Beast, is played by a trained dog, Britney. Beast is a loyal pet who usually waits in the car and puts up with being raised for his puppies. However, his role is so pivotal that the film’s title was originally intended to be Beast, in honor of co-writer Bill Reddy’s own dog, whose death inspired the story.
Unfortunately, Britney was unable to attend the ceremony, but two fluffy silver poodles showed up on her behalf for the ceremony. Both Keough and Gammell thanked for the award on Zoom, describing Britney and her owner as “thrilled”, while a few local poodle replacements were on hand to accept the award, cooing from the audience.
How was the Palm Dog born?
The story of the Palm Dog is even being made into a documentary – or should it be a canine documentary? — and Toby Rose thinks his success over the years is understandable.
“It started in 2001, because I was very lucky to have an adorable fox terrier named Mutley, and he lived with me while I was doing my job as a showbiz journalist in Paris,” explains Pink.
“He accompanied me everywhere to the interviews, and he seduced all the interviewees. It was exciting to see its effect on anyone. He even ended up in a short film, but I realized there could never be an award for him. That’s how it started – we put it together because dogs can really make an impact on screen, but they had no chance of winning an award.
Rose also runs an Instagram account, @dogsrocking, where he is regularly photographed with dogs he meets in life, and each year manages to find a dog of the right breed to replace the winning canine – who is unlikely to be able to travel . at Cannes. The local dog owners Rose meets on the Croisette in Cannes are often delighted, if not a little surprised, to be invited to the ceremony.
“One thing we’ve never struggled with is whether there will be dogs at the event,” Rose says. “We always have what we need, and it just goes to show that dogs are always there for us humans.”
A cult date on the Cannes calendar
The large press turnout in 2022 is partly due to the fact that in recent years the directors of the winning Palm Dog film have attended the ceremony.
Last year, actress Tilda Swinton wore the dog collar herself after accepting the award on behalf of her own Springer Spaniels Snowbear, Rosy and Dora, when they won the award for their work in The Souvenir Part II. (The dogs were busy on a Scottish beach at the time.)
In 2019, director Quentin Tarantino showed up in person and accepted the Palm Dog for Brandy, property of Brad Pitt’s character in the film.
“I have to say, I’m so honored to have this,” Tarantino said at the time. “I’ve told everyone, I have no idea if we’re going to win the Palme d’Or. I don’t feel any rights. But I felt like I was in good standing to win the Palm Dog. So, I want to dedicate this to my wonderful actress Brandy. She brought the Palm Dog home to America.
Who is in the running for the Palm Dog this year?
Guardian film critic Peter Bradshaw read the list of this year’s nominees and assessed their performances – and the Grand Jury’s second prizes went to Marcel, a film by Jamine Trinca about a woman whose dog ( Marcel) has disappeared. Icelandic film Godland shared the second prize, thanks to an outstanding performance by an Icelandic sheepdog.
More seriously, this year’s “Dogmatarian” award went to Patron, the explosives-sniffing Jack Russell terrier in Ukraine who was recently honored by President Zelensky for his service. Representatives of the Ukrainian Pavilion in Cannes were present to receive the award on his behalf.
Rose says the documentary about the now-must-see Cannes event isn’t finished yet, but surely it will qualify for a special Cannes screening next year? Either way, a look at the relaxed faces of the attendees as they fidgeted and praised the dogs showed that, unlike other awards ceremonies at the festival, this one reduces stress levels.
“Cannes is a lot of business, it’s stressful and it’s full of demands,” says Rose. “To be honest, we are holding this at the end of the festival because you can give this award without fear or favor, and right now a lot of people just want a moment of relaxation. It’s just pure happiness.