The 74th annual Cannes Film Festival has drawn to a close, after returning successfully and in full force for the 2021 season. Among the array of awards presented across the festival’s 12-day run was the Oeil d’Or, also known as the Golden Eye prize for Best Documentary film. Consisting of €5,000, the prize was first awarded in May of 2015 to the film Beyond My Grandfather Allende.
This year’s prize was awarded to Mumbai-based filmmaker and director Payal Kapadia, for her piece entitled A Night of Knowing Nothing, whose story follows a young university student from India, as she corresponds with an estranged lover through a series of letters. The film was screened as part of the Directors’ Fortnight: a program presented in collaboration with the Cannes festival. This marked Kapadia’s official return to Cannes, following her presentation of the short film Afternoon Clouds at the 2017 event.
The film’s official tagline can be found on the website of Director’s Fortnight, elaborating on the ways in which the story unfolds through the protagonist’s series of letters.
“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.”
This year’s competitors for the Golden Eye prize included The Velvet Underground by Todd Haynes, Cow by Andrea Arnold, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass by Oliver Stone, The Story of Film: A New Generation by Mark Cousins, Marx Can Wait by Marco Bellocchio, Invisible Demons by Rahul Jain, and Babi Yar. Context by Sergei Loznitsa.
Selecting this year’s winner was a jury comprised of American documentary producer Ezera Edelman, French filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli, French actress Deborah Francois, Franco-American film critic Iris Brey, and artistic director of the IDFA Amsterdam division: Orwa Nyrabia. Their selection places A Night of Knowing Nothing among the ranks of past Golden Eye winners such as Faces Places by Agnes Varda, For Sama by Waad al-Kateab and Edward Watts, and Makala by Emmanuel Gras.