Forest Whitaker is set to receive this year’s honorary Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival, Cannes announced on Thursday.
Whitaker will be the honorary guest at the opening ceremony for the 75th Cannes, and a film he produced, “For the Sake of Peace,” will also get a special screening on Wednesday, May 18.
“Thirty-four years ago, attending Cannes for the first time changed my life, and assured me that I’d made the right decision to devote myself to finding connectivity in humanity through film,” Whitaker said in a statement. “It’s always a privilege to return to this beautiful festival to both screen my own work, and to be inspired by many of the world’s greatest artists – and I feel incredibly honored to be celebrated as part of the Festival’s momentous 75th anniversary.”
Last year’s honorary winner for the Palme d’Or was Jodie Foster. Other past recipients have included Jeanne Moreau, Bernardo Bertolucci, Manoel de Oliveira, Jean-Pierre Léaud, Agnès Varda, and Alain Delon. The award pays tribute to a “sparkling artistic journey, a rare personality as well as a discreet but strong humanitarian commitment to key topical issues.”
The opening ceremony will air live on France Télévisions and Brut.
Forest Whitaker first came to Cannes in 1988 and played jazz great Charlie Parker in “Bird,” though he had previously appeared in other Cannes films. He won the Best Actor Prize for his “Bird” performance. He’s returned six other times in the official selection and four times in competition, including films such as “A Rage in Harlem,” “Body Snatchers” and “Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai.” He’s also been a producer on films like “Fruitvale Station” that have played in the Un Certain Regard at Cannes.
“When welcoming Forest Whitaker to Cannes, I was able to meet and admire an artist with intense charisma and a luminous presence”, Thierry Frémaux, general delegate, said in a statement. “His filmography is both dazzling and fully accomplished. I also observed closely his convictions as a man, and the attention he carries for the young generation. Through his faith in a better world and his commitment, he contributes to making it a better place. Rare are the artists that reach such a beautiful balance, and Forest achieves it and sets an example”.
“It is a tradition for the Festival de Cannes to honor those who made its history and Forest Whitaker is one of them,” Festival de Cannes president Pierre Lescure said. “He is this young actor that Clint Eastwood revealed in ‘Bird’ and that man who broadens his view of the world to offer it to those who suffer and those who fight. The full honors belong to Whitaker. This Palme d’or is a gesture of gratitude from the world of cinema.”
“For the Sake of Peace” is directed by Christophe Castagne and Thomas Sametin and is about how South Sudan, the youngest country in the world, is at war with itself, with over 350,000 people killed since its inception in 2011. However, through this darkness, its endless cycle of conflict has hope: the determination of young women and men who refuse to give up on peace. The film follows Gatjang, a referee in a refugee camp of Juba, who uses sports to bring a culture of peace to children and youths from adverse tribes. And Nandege, a young mother, becomes a successful mediator against all odds to address a lethal conflict that has opposed communities of the Kidepo Valley for generations.
Cannes 2022 runs from May 17-28.