Philippe Lioret film wins best picture in France

PARIS — The 2010 Gallic awards season kicked off with underdog “Welcome” upsetting favorite “A Prophet” for best picture prize at France’s Lumiere Awards.

Starring Vincent Lindon as a swimming coach who aids a young Iraqi Kurd in his quest to cross the English Channel, “Welcome” scored more than 1 million admissions during a French release sparked by controversy over a minister’s comments about the film’s take on illegal immigrants. U.S. rights to the pic were recently nabbed by Film Movement.

“I was afraid to tell my producer that 25 minutes of the film would be in Kurdish. ‘It’s normal,’ he said. ‘The character’s Kurd.’ ” quipped scribe-helmer Philippe Lioret to a packed house at Paris’ Hotel de Ville.

Jacques Audiard’s much heralded prison thriller, “A Prophet,” nabbed two major prizes: director and actor for newcomer Tahar Rahim. Pic is nominated for foreign language film at the Golden Globes, and is France’s contender for foreign language film at this year’s Oscars.

Actress went to vet Isabelle Adjani for her portrayal of a high school teacher under siege in Jean-Paul Lillienfeld’s drama “Skirt Day.” “It’s touching to receive a prize for a film about such a taboo subject,” Adjani remarked.

Screenplay kudos went to Mia Hansen-Love for her family drama “The Father of My Children.” Scribe-helmer’s sophomore pic nabbed Un Certain Regard’s Special Jury Prize at Cannes, and is slated for U.S. release by IFC this year. She’s also one of Varietys 10 Directors to Watch.

Twenty-year old Canuck actor-director Xavier Dolan received best Francophone film award for his debut, “I Killed My Mother.”

Created in 1995 by legendary Gallic producer Daniel Toscan du Plantier and Newsweek foreign correspondent Edward Behr, this 15th edition of the Lumieres paid homage to late French auteur Eric Rohmer and to thesp Jocelyn Quivrin, who died in a car crash last November.

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