A Johnson & Johnson-commissioned documentary about heroic nurses in the early days of AIDS has won the Entertainment Lions Grand Prix at Cannes.
“5B” is the story of a group of nurses at San Francisco General Hospital in the 1980s who established a ward to care for AIDS patients. Made by UM Studios New York, Highway 61 Films and production company Saville, it’s based on resurfaced records of people who were nursed in one ward, 5B, at the dawn of the AIDS epidemic before much was known about the disease, and connects J&J’s brand focus on “care” and “touch” with how nurses cared for the patients.
Jury president Scott Donaton, global chief creative and content officer at Digitas, described the 94-minute film, which opened June 14 across selected U.S. movie theaters, as “a brave idea, beautifully told and brilliantly executed. It gives you chills and it wouldn’t have been told without the bravery and commitment of the brand in telling the story.”
“It won because we need more stories in the world like this,” he added. “For brands going forward in entertainment, having values and expressing values is going to be the best way to connect with people.”
The documentary, directed by Oscar-nominated director Dan Krauss, wasn’t the only contender for the Grand Prix, according to Donaton. “There was a lot of love for it from the beginning but it wasn’t a slam dunk.”
Juror Emily Bull, co-founder and managing director of Hellofuture.tv, said other popular pieces of work among the jury included Wendy’s “Keeping Fortnite Fresh” campaign by VMLY&R.
According to another juror, Mindy Hamilton, senior VP global partnerships at Marvel Entertainment, jurors were impressed with how the Johnson & Johnson documentary, which was only released June 14, was not only “beautifully crafted” but “connected with everything that’s going on in today’s culture.”
She added “Johnson & Johnson could have played it safer and simply made something beautiful but instead they dug this up.”
Overall, Donaton said the judging had illustrated how the Entertainment category had evolved over the past few years. “We are at a tipping point where entertainment marketing is becoming established in the marketing toolbox, rather than something you dip your toe in the water in,” he said. He added that the caliber of the storytelling at Cannes “is standing beside the best that the entertainment industry has to offer. It’s as worthy of people’s time and money as anything else that people can consume.”
However, he added that the jury would have liked to see more entries that showed new technologies such as AI and voice-enabling entertainment experiences. "We would love to see more on how these tools are going to transform storytelling."