‘Elle,’ ‘Divines’ Celebrated at France’s Lumieres Awards

Paul Verhoeven’s “Elle” and Houda Benyamina’s “Divines” won the main prizes at this year’s Lumieres Awards, France’s equivalent to the Golden Globes.

“Elle,” which competed at Cannes, won the Lumieres prizes for best film, director and actress for Isabelle Huppert. The French thesp, who just won the Golden Globe, will vie for an Oscar and a Cesar next month.

Verhoeven did not attend the ceremony, which was held Monday in Paris, as he is currently in the U.S. But in a prepared video, he thanked the Lumieres Academie, his producers Said Ben Said and Michel Merkt, and Huppert, whom he praised for her “talent, audacity and everything she brought to the film.” Alluding to the current political turmoil in the U.S., Verhoeven also said he hoped to make his next film in France.

Ben Said called “Elle” a “French miracle” which “could not have been made in another country.” “Me, the son of an immigrant, I am so proud to be French today,” added the producer, whose recent credits include “Aquarius” and “Maps to the Stars.”

Huppert said she was particularly moved to receive the best actress prize from the foreign press in Paris because she has always been attracted to working with foreign filmmakers and in new territories all over the world. The actress added that she had dreamed of working with Verhoeven since discovering his Dutch films as a teenager.

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Benyamina’s “Divines,” which world-premiered at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, won best first film, and its two lead actresses, Oulaya Amamra and Déborah Lukumuena (pictured above), shared the prize for best female newcomer.

Lukimena and Amamra, who are also nominated for Cesars, thanked Benyamina and producer Marc-Benoit Creancier for entrusting them with challenging roles even though they were unknown actresses.

Albert Serra’s “The Death of Louis XIV” and Claude Barras’ “My Life as a Zucchini” won two awards each. “My Life as a Zucchini,” which is nominated for an Oscar, won best animated feature and script for Celine Sciamma, a critically acclaimed filmmaker whose credits include “Girlhood.”

“The Death of Louis XIV” nabbed the awards for best actor, for French New Wave icon Jean-Pierre Léaud, and cinematography, for Jonathan Ricquebourg.

Damien Bonnard won best male newcomer for his performance in Alain Guiraudie’s “Stay Vertical,” which competed at Cannes.

Mohamed Ben Attia’s “Hedi” won best French-language foreign film, while Safy Nebbou’s “In the Forest of Siberia” won best music (for Ibrahim Maalouf).

The Lumieres Academie also paid tribute to Thierry Fremaux, the artistic director and general delegate of the Cannes Film Festival, and to Oscar-winning actress Marion Cotillard.

Upon receiving the Lumieres Award (in association with Variety), Fremaux quipped that “receiving an honorary award was like dancing a slow [dance] with your sister,” because it’s a non-contested prize. “But still, it’s delightful.”

Fremaux also took the opportunity to pay homage to Jean Hernandez, a well-respected distributor and arthouse theater programmer who recently died. “If cinema is as rich as it is today, it is thanks to people like Jean Hernandez.”

Fremaux added that he was grateful to former Cannes president Gilles Jacob for giving him the position of artistic director, and to filmmaker Bertrand Tavernier, whom he “owes everything to, or almost everything.”

Tavernier presides over the Lumiere Institute in Lyon and the annual Lumiere festival, which is headed by Fremaux and is dedicated to heritage films.

Tavernier, who was on hand at the ceremony, won the best documentary award with his film “Journey Through French Cinema.”

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