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First Champs Elysees fest fetes ‘Marina’

French event celebrated U.S. indie films

PARIS — Matthew Akers’ documentary “Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present” nabbed the inaugural Champs Elysees Film Festival’s audience award for feature at the closing ceremony on Tuesday in Paris.

“Abramovic,” which unspooled at Sundance and won Berlin’s Panorama audience nod, follows the Serbian performance artist as she preps for a retro of her work at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Fest was created by French film producer/distributor Sophie Dulac with the aim of promoting American indies from lesser-known helmers to French audiences and European distributors. Although there is no co-production treaty between France and the U.S., Dulac said she believes the Paris event could encourage French and American industryites to join forces on projects.

The fest, presided over by Michael Madsen and Lambert Wilson, also awarded audience prizes to the best U.S. and French shorts — Shariq Siddiqui’s “Motherland” and thesp-turned-filmmaker Stephane Freiss’ “It’s a Miracle House,” respectively.

The American indie cinema lovefest drew top U.S. and French indusry players, notably Harvey Weinstein, who was celebrated with a career homage and participated in a debate and Donald Sutherland, who was also feted with a tribute plus Cannes film festival topper Thierry Fremaux, “The Intouchables” helmers Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano, and “The Artist” producer Thomas Langmann.

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