Jacques Audiard's drama wins nine awards

Jacques Audiard’s “A Prophet” stole the show at the 35th Cesar Awards in Paris on Saturday, winning nine kudos, including film and director, from 13 nominations.

Pic’s breakout star, Tahar Rahim, snatched two awards — actor and breakthrough performance — for his role as a 19-year-old small-time hood who becomes a Mafia kingpin behind bars.

“At the beginning I was extremely nervous and intimidated because I was aware the film was a big machine,” said Rahim. “But at one point, the mental block just disappeared.”

Rahim, who already nabbed a European Film nod this year, beat strong contenders, notably “Rapt’s” Yvan Attal and Francois Cluzet, who was nommed twice in the actor category, for “In the Beginning” and “One for the Road.”

French-Algerian scribe Abdel Raouf Dafri nabbed original screenplay for “A Prophet,” along with Audiard, Nicolas Peufaillit and Thomas Bidegain.

Rahim and Dafri’s wins were rare kudos for talent from the French-Algerian community.

The film also nabbed supporting actor for Niels Arestrup and honors for set design, editing and sound.Produced by Chic Films and Why Not, “A Prophet” is Oscar-nommed for foreign-lingo film.

“More than any other films I’ve directed, making ‘A Prophet’ was very challenging,” said Audiard, who had faced resistance to his decision to cast mainly unknown actors for his $17 million-prison drama. “Seeing Tahar’s victory tonight reminds me of my initial objective for this film, which was to let audiences discover the new faces of French cinema.”

Nominated for nine awards, Philippe Lioret’s immigrant drama “Welcome” was expected to dominate the Cesars but was snubbed. It nabbed best picture at the Lumiere Awards, France’s equivalent of the Golden Globes, earlier this year.

Isabelle Adjani won lead actress for her role as a professor who takes her students hostage in “Skirt Day,” her bigscreen comeback after a five-year break. Emmanuelle Devos, who previously won best actress for Audiard’s “Read My Lips” took supporting actress.

“It’s a tiny film that deals with a taboo subject,” said Adjani of the high school-set drama. “And it took a deep passion and conviction to believe in it when no one wanted to produce or distribute it.”

Other winners included Stephane Brize’s “Mademoiselle Chambon” for adapted screenplay and Riad Sattouf’s “The French Kissers” for debut film.

In the foreign film category, Clint Eastwood’s “Gran Torino” beat James Cameron’s “Avatar” and Cannes Palme d’Or winner “The White Ribbon.”

Hollywood was represented well at the ceremony with Sigourney Weaver presenting Harrison Ford with an honorary Cesar.”You are never the superhero … even in the blockbusters, you remain unpredictable,” said Weaver on stage, speaking in French and English. “No one in your generation comes close.”

And the winners are:

DIRECTOR
Jacques Audiard, “A Prophet”

ACTOR
Tahar Rahim, “A Prophet”

ACTRESS
Isabelle Adjani, “Skirt Day”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE, ACTOR
Tahar Rahim, “A Prophet”

BREAKTHROUGH PERFORMANCE, ACTRESS
Melanie Thierry, “One for the Road”

SUPPORTING ACTOR
Niels Arestrup, “A Prophet”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS
Emmanuelle Devos, “At the Beginning”

FIRST FILM
“The French Kissers,” Riad Sattouf

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY
Jacques Audiard, Thomas Bidegain, Abdel Raouf Dafri, Nicolas Peufaillit, “A Prophet”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY
Stephane Brize, Florence Vignon, “Mademoiselle Chambon”

CINEMATOGRAPHY
Stephane Fontaine, “A Prophet”

FOREIGN FILM
“Gran Torino,” Clint Eastwood

ORIGINAL SCORE
Armand Amar, “The Concert”

COSTUME DESIGN
Catherine Leterrier, “Coco Before Chanel”

SET DESIGN
Michel Barthelemy, “A Prophet”

EDITING
Juliette Welfling, “A Prophet”

SOUND
Pierre Excoffier, Bruno Tarriere, Bruno Tarriere, Selim Azzazi, “A Prophet”

DOCUMENTARY FEATURE
“L’Enfer d’Henri,” Georges Clouzot, Serge Bromberg, Ruxandra Medrea

SHORT
C’est Gratuit Pour Les Filles, Claire Burger, Marie Amachoukeli

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