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‘Timbuktu’ Sweeps France’s Cesar Awards

PARIS — Abderrahmane Sissako’s foreign-language Oscar-nommed “Timbuktu” was the big winner of the 40th Cesar Awards, snatching up seven kudos, including the film and director nods.

Kristen Stewart scored a supporting actress Cesar for her performance as Juliette Binoche’s assistant in “Clouds of Sils Maria,” becoming the first American actress to win a Cesar trophy.

“The reasons why people make films here in France are very different from the reasons why people make movies in Hollywood, and I prefer it here a little bit,” Stewart said backstage about the courage of French filmmakers. She also revealed she will star in another French film but declined to reveal any further details.

Timbuktu” won best film over Olivier Assayas’ “Sils Maria,” Bertrand Bonello’s “Saint Laurent,” Thomas Cailley’s “Love at First Fight,” Robin Campillo’s “Eastern Boys,” Eric Lartigau’s “The Belier Family” and Thomas Lilti’s “Hippocrate.”

In his acceptance speech, Sissako paid homage to the richness and openness of the French film industry and in particular his producer Sylvie Pialat and co-producer/distributor Jean Labadie for believing in the project and taking risks. “France had faith in this film from the start as we were in a rush to get it off the ground.” Sissako also evoked the recent Paris terror attacks, saying that “France has shown it was capable of standing up against horror and obscurantism.” The filmmaker ended his speech by saying, “There is no civilization clash, there is a meeting between two civilizations.”

Sissako also paid tribute to Cannes Film Festival for placing the film under an international spotlight and talked about his attachment to Mauritania. “There are hundreds of people in Mauritania who don’t have the opportunity to make movies. Beyond Mauritania the whole of Africa is watching us tonight — this continent that we seldom talk about in order to praise its strength.”

Besides winning the top Cesar awards, “Timbuktu” also swept kudos for sound, cinematography, editing, music and original screenplay.

Surprisingly,”Timbuktu” was overlooked at Cannes where it world premiered in competition. Although the movie is considered to be the first Mauritanian film in the running for a foreign-language Oscar, it was financed in France, produced at Sylvie Pialat’s Paris-based Les Films du Worso and distributed/sold by Jean-Labadie’s Le Pacte.

Xavier Dolan’s French-Canadian “Mommy” won best foreign film, beating “Boyhood,” “12 Years a Slave,” “Two Days, One Night,” “Ida,” “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Winter Sleep.”

The biggest surprises of the night were the actor and actress wins for Comedie Francaise-trained Pierre Niney for his perf in Jalil Lespert’s “Yves Saint Laurent” and Adele Haenel for her role in “Love at First Fight.”

Haenel won over Marion Cotillard and Catherine Deneuve. Gaspard Ulliel, who also played the famed French designer in Bertrand Bonello’s other pic about the designer, “Saint Laurent,” was considered a favorite. While it was leading the race with 10 nominations, Bonello’s pic picked up only best costumes.

“Love at First Fight,” an unusual romantic comedy that takes place in an Army boot camp, also won best directorial debut for Cailley and male newcomer for Kevin Azais. The movie had earned an impressive nine Cesar nominations. It was discovered by Directors’ Fortnight topper Edouard Waintrop and won a record four nods in Cannes last year. “Love at First Fight” also marks the first film of its producer, Pierre Guyard at Nord-Ouest. Repped by Bac Films, the film has been sold to all major territories and will be distributed in the U.S. by Strand Releasing. Azais said he will next star alongside Isabelle Huppert in Belgian director’s Bavo Defurne’s new film.

Up-and-coming thesp Reda Kateb, who previously starred in “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Lost River,” won best supporting actor for his performance as an intern in a Paris hospital in “Hippocrate.” Kateb told journos in the press room that his next English-language film will be Wim Wenders’ bigscreen adaptation of Aranjuez’s play “Les beaux jours.”

Eric Lartigau’s dramedy blockbuster “La Famille Belier,” the most mainstream contender of this year’s race, earned its star Louane Emera a best newcomer nod. “La Famille Belier” is still playing in theaters and has so far totaled more than 6 million admissions. That category was particularly strong this year: Emera beat a flurry of buzzed-about actresses, notably Karidja Touré in “Girlhood” and Ariane Labed in “Fidelio,” as well as Lou De Laâge and Joséphine Japy, the duo who star in Melanie Laurent’s sophomore outing “Respire” (“Breathe”).

A visibly moved Marion Cotillard delivered a long speech to present Sean Penn with an honorary Cesar award.

Penn, who attended the ceremony with Charlize Theron, said he’s “always loved French movies.” “I’ve always had a particular affinity to French films, directors and actors, and to receive an honor from them is very notable,” said Penn.

AND THE WINNERS ARE:

FILM

“Timbuktu”

DIRECTOR

Abderrahmane Sissako, “Timbuktu”

ACTRESS

Adele Haenel, “Love at First Fight”

SUPPORTING ACTRESS

Kristen Stewart, “Sils Maria”

ACTOR

Pierre Niney, “Yves Saint Laurent”

SUPPORTING ACTOR

Reda Kateb, “Hippocrates”

FOREIGN FILM

Xavier Dolan, “Mommy”

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY

Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall, “Timbuktu”

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY

Cyril Gely, Volker Schlondorff, “Diplomacy”

FIRST FILM

“Love at First Fight,” Thomas Cailley

FEMALE NEWCOMER

Louane Emera, “The Belier Family”

MALE NEWCOMER

Kevin Azais, “Love at First Fight”

COSTUME

Anais Romand for Saint Laurent

SET DECORATION

Thierry Flamand for The Beauty and the Beast

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Sofian el Fani, “Timbuktu”

EDITING

Nadia Ben Rachid, “Timbuktu”

SOUND

Philippe Welsh, Roman Dymn, Thierry Delor, “Timbuktu”

ANIMATED FILM

“Minuscule”

DOCUMENTARY

“Salt of the Earth,” Wim Wenders

 

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