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‘Sink or Swim,’ ‘Custody’ Lead Race for France’s Cesar Awards

French actor-turned-director Gilles Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim” and Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody” lead the race for this year’s Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, with 10 nominations each, including best picture and best director.

Sink or Swim” (“Le Grand Bain” in France), a star-driven dramedy about a men’s synchronized swimming team, world-premiered at Cannes out of competition and was released by Studiocanal. The ensemble film, which was one of the highest-grossing French films in 2018, picked up multiple nominations in the best supporting actor and actress categories, for Jean-Hugues Anglade, Philippe Katerine, Leila Bekhti and Virginie Efira.

Custody” follows a boy named Julien (Thomas Gioria), who is forced by a court ruling to split his time between his mother (Léa Drucker) and estranged father (Denis Ménochet), whom he regards as a violent monster, amid his parents’ bitter divorce. “Custody” world-premiered in competition at the Venice Film Festival, where it won two awards, and went on to play at Toronto in the competitive Platform section. Drucker and Menochet were nominated for best actress and actor, respectively.

Both Pierre Salvadori’s comedy “En Liberté” and Jacques Audiard’s Western “The Sisters Brothers,” which stars Joaquin Phoenix, John C. Reilly and Jake Gyllenhaal, received nine nominations, including for best film. Produced by Paris-based company Why Not, “The Sisters Brothers” world-premiered in Venice, where it earned Audiard a best director award. Audiard and Salvadori both received best director Cesar nods.

Emmanuel Finkiel’s “A Memoir of War,” an adaptation of Marguerite Duras’ semi-autobiographical novel, garnered eight nominations, followed by Jeanne Herry’s “In Safe Hands,” with seven. The latter film charts the long and heart-wrenching journey of a baby boy from his birth to the moment he finally gets adopted. The two leading women of “In Safe Hands,” Elodie Bouchez and Sandrine Kiberlain, both earned a best actress nomination.

Alex Lutz’s “Guy” and Emmanuel Mouret’s French period drama “Mademoiselle de Joncquières” each earned six nominations. Lutz, who stars in his film as a journalist who discovers he is the illegitimate son of an aging French pop singer, was also nominated for best actor.

“Mademoiselle de Joncquières” world-premiered at Toronto and was acquired by Netflix for most rights worldwide. The film’s star, Cecile de France, will be competing for best actress, along with Drucker, Kiberlain, Bouchez, Virginie Efira for “An Impossible Love,” Melanie Thierry for “A Memoir of War” and Adele Haenel for “En Liberté.”

Along with Lutz and Menochet, the others nominated for best actor are Edouard Baer for “Mademoiselle de Joncquieres,” Romain Duris for “Nos Batailles,” Vincent Lacoste for “Amanda,” Pio Marmai for “En Liberté,” and Lellouche for “In Safe Hands.”

Andrea Bescond and Eric Metayer’s “Little Tickles,” a French drama about childhood sexual abuse which is based on Bescond’s autobiographical one-woman show, earned five nominations.

Romain Garvas’ crime comedy “The World Is Yours,” which world premiered at Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, nabbed a best supporting actor nomination for Karim Leklou and supporting actress for Isabelle Adjani.

Competing for the best foreign film award are Martin McDonagh’s “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” Nadine Labaki’s “Capernaum,” Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Cold War,” Lukas Dhont’s “Girl,” Andrea Pallardo’s “Hannah,” Guillaume Senez’s “Nos Batailles,” and Hirokazu Kore-Eda’s “Shoplifters,” which won Cannes’ Palme d’Or last year.

The 44th Cesar Awards ceremony will take place Feb. 22 at the Salle Pleyel in Paris and will be hosted by French actor Kad Merad. British actress Kristin Scott Thomas will preside over the ceremony as honorary president, while Robert Redford will receive this year’s honorary Cesar award.

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