Shane Atkinson’s Dark Comedy ‘LaRoy’ Wins Top Awards at Deauville Festival

Shane Atkinson’s “LaRoy,” a crime thriller laced with dark comedy, swept three major prizes at the 49th edition of the Deauville American Film Festival.

The movie, which marks Atkinson’s feature debut and showcases Coen brothers influences, won the Grand Prize, the Audience Award and the Critics Award. It stars John Magaro as Ray, who decides to kill himself after discovering his wife has been cheating on him. But just before he pulls a trigger, a stranger takes him for a low-rent hitman. The movie was produced by the Cannes-based company Adastra Films and was acquired by a French distributor, ARP Selection, during the Deauville Film Festival. It previously opened at the Tribeca Film Festival.

The Jury Prize, meanwhile was shared by two films, Sean Price Williams’ “The Sweet East” and  Iranian-born director Babak Jalali’s “Fremont.” “The Sweet East” marks the feature debut of Price, a well-established cinematographer whose credits include “Good Time.” The film is a coming of age following a high school student (Talia Ryder) who runs away while on a school trip and hits the road. It world premiered at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight.

“Fremont,” meanwhile, is a black-and-white film that tells the story of Donya, a young woman working at a Chinese fortune cookie factory in the San Francisco bay. In his speech in Deauville, Jalali paid tribute to the genuine performance of Anaita Wali Zada, a real-life Afghan refugee, who had never acted before and stars opposite Jeremy Allen White. The movie bowed at Sundance and is represented by Memento International.

This year’s competition jury was presided over by popular French actor-director Guillaume Canet, and included screenwriter-novelist Anne Berest, filmmakers Stephane Bak, Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre and Alexandre Aja, actors Marina Hands and Rebecca Marder, music composer-singer Yodelice and screenwriter-director Lea Mysius. 

“The Sweet East” also won the Revelation Prize from a separate jury presided over by Mélanie Thierry. The competition, which is spearheaded by artistic director Bruno Barde, included nine feature debuts. The lineup boasted Hannah Peterson’s “The Graduates,” Joanna Arnow’s feature debut “The Feeling That the Time for Doing Something Has Passed,” and John Trengove’s “Manodrome” starring Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody, among others.

The d’Ornano-Valenti Award, which honors a French-language film playing in Deauville, was given to Delphine Deloget’s “All to Play For” a heart-wrenching drama starring Virginie Efira as a single mother whose world falls appart after her son is placed in a foster home. The movie also stars Félix Lefebvre and Arieh Worthalter.

While American actors didn’t attend the festival due to the SAG-AFTRA strike, all but two directors in competition turned up at the Normandie-set festival. Todd Haynes was also on hand for the gala screening of “May December” alongside his producers Christine Vachon and Sophie Mas, and gave a speech for the tribute to Deauville honoree Natalie Portman.

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