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Albert Dupontel’s “Bye Bye Morons” won seven prizes, including best film and director, at the 46th Cesar Awards which took place as an in-person, yet socially distanced event at the Olympia concert hall in Paris on March 12. The ceremony was held in the presence of nominees only.

“Bye Bye Morons” also won awards for best supporting actor for Nicolas Mairé, original screenplay, cinematography and set design, as well as a prize voted on by high school students. A dark comedy, “Bye Bye Morons” stars Virginie Efira as a seriously ill woman on a mission to reunite with her long-lost child with the help of a man who’s having a burnout. Efira,

Emmanuel Mouret’s “Love Affair(s),” which was nominated for 13 awards, picked up the best supporting actress nod for Emilie Dequenne.

The best actor nod went to Sami Bouajila for his performance in Mehdi M. Barsaoui’s Tunisian drama “A Son.”The film revolves around a couple whose world collapses when their son is shot. Bouajila stars as the father who discovers he’s not the boy’s biological parent. Meanwhile, Laure Calamy (“Call My Agent!) won best actress for her part in Caroline Vignal’s “My Donkey, My Lover and I.” The comedy stars Calamy as a school teacher who embarks on a road trip across the French mountains with a donkey on the trail of her married lover and his family.

It was the first Cesar edition under the new leadership of Veronique Cayla, the former boss of the Franco-German public culture channel Arte France, and vice chair Eric Toledano, the popular co-director of smash-hit “The Intouchables.” The pair came on board in September and reformed the operating model and corporate leadership of the Cesar Awards following an industry-wide revolt that led to the resignation of long-time Cesar Academy president Alain Terzian, along with the rest of the 21-member board of governors, last year. Although there is still a dearth of Black creatives on the boards, Cayla and Toledano have succeeded in making the Cesar Awards a more democratic and gender equal institution and have nearly 500 new voting members.

This year’s Cesar Awards marked a milestone with two Black actors picking up nods: Fathia Youssouf, 14, won best female newcomer for her role in Maimouna Doucouré’s “Cuties,” and Jean-Pascal Zadi won best male newcomer for his performance in “Tout Simplement Noir” which he also wrote and directed. Only a handful of Black creatives have won prizes in the history of the Cesar Awards.

Upon receiving his prize on stage, Zadi paid hommage to the very few Black actors, including Omar Sy (“Intouchables”) and Deborah Lukumuena (“Divines”), and the filmmakers Ladj Ly (“Les Miserables”) and Doucouré who have won Cesar Awards before.

Zadi stars in his film as a struggling Black actor trying to organize a protest for Black people in France. In his strong speech, Zadi said his film “Tout Simplement Noir” was meant to celebrate humanity beyond anything.

Zadi, who took years to get “Tout Simplement Noir” off the ground and faced prejudice throughout his career because of his skin color, cited on stage Adama Traoré, who was killed in 2016 at the hands of the police, like George Floyd, as well as Michel Zecler, a Black music producer who was beaten by several policemen several months ago. He then cited Frantz Fanon, a French political philosopher from Martinique, saying that “each generation has to find its mission and either accomplish it or betray it,” and thanked the Cesar tonight for “proving (him) that (his) mission wasn’t vain and that humanity is everyone’s mission.”

Youssouf’s win, meanwhile, was made possible after the Cesar Academy changed the eligibility rules for the newcomer category to include actors under 18.

Two of Us,” Filippo Meneghetti’s feature debut which represents France in the Oscar race, won best first film. The feature debut follows Nina and Madeleine, two retirees who have hidden their deep and passionate love for many decades and see their bond put to the test when they are suddenly unable to move in together. The film’s acting duo, Martine Chevallier and Barbara Sukowa, were both nominated.

Stéphanie Demoustier’s “The Girl With a Bracelet” won best adapted screenplay. The film is a remake of the Argentine courtroom drama “The Accused” and revolves around a teenage girl on trial for murdering her best friend. Thomas Vinterberg’s “Another Round” won best foreign film. Headlined by Mads Mikkelsen, “Another Round” was part of Cannes 2020’s Official Selection.

The ceremony paid emotional tributes to iconic film figures who passed away in 2020, including Jean-Claude Carriere, the novelist, screenwriter and actor, the screenwriter Jean-Loup Dabadie and the actor Jean-Pierre Bacri.

The ceremony was emceed by popular actor Marina Fois, who made a politically charged opening speech celebrating the collective experience of moviegoing and criticizing the French government’s decision to keep cultural venues closed, including theaters, because they’re considered non-essential.

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Corinne Masiero at the Cesar Awards Screenshot/Canal+

Several honorees throughout the ceremony pleaded for the reopening of cinemas which have been shut down since October. Actress Corinne Masiero first appeared in a donkey costume, then a blood-stained dress, then stripped down entirely onstage as part of the protest. Masiero had the message “No culture,  no future” written across her torso and ‘Give us back art, Jean,” (for Jean Castex, the Prime Minister) tagged on her back.

Many movies were not eligible for this year’s Cesar Awards because they couldn’t be released in 2020 as cinemas were shut down for a total of 23 weeks due to the pandemic. The French government has yet to unveil a date of reopening for cultural venues, including theaters.

Roschdy Zem, who won last year’s best actor for his performance in Arnaud Desplechin’s “Oh Mercy!,” presided over the ceremony which pushed the envelop further than usual and marked a big departure from the traditional conservatism of previous editions. As expected, the president of the National Film Board (CNC), Dominique Boutonnat, who was recently indicted following an accusation of sexual assault, did not attend the ceremony. Boutonnat has refused to step down from the CNC while he is being investigated, despite protests from film guilds.

Here’s the list of the Cesar 2021 winners:

“Bye Bye Morons,” Albert Dupontel
“Adolescents,” Sébastien Lifshitz
“My Donkey, My Lover & I,” Caroline Vignal
“Love Affairs,” Emmanuel Mouret
“Summer of 85,” François Ozon

Albert Dupontel, “Bye Bye Morons”
Maîwenn, “DNA”
Sébastien Lifshitz, “Adolescents”
Emmanuel Mouret, “Love Affairs”
François Ozon, “Summer of 85”

“Two Of Us,” Filippo Meneghetti
“Garçon Chiffon,” Nicolas Maury
“Cuties,” Maïmouna Doucouré
“Tout Simplement Noir,” Jean-Pascal Zadi
“Un Divan a Tunis,” Manele Labidi

Laure Calamy, “My Donkey, My Lover & I”
Martine Chevallier, “Two of Us”
Virginie Efira, “Bye Bye Morons”
Camélia Jordana, “Love Affairs”
Barbara Sukowa, “Two of Us”

Sami Bouajila, “A Son”
Jonathan Cohen, “Enorme”
Albert Dupontel, “Bye Bye Morons”
Niels Schneider, “Love Affairs”
Lambert Wilson, “De Gaulle”

“1917,” Sam Mendes
“Corpus Christi,” Jan Komasa
“Dark Waters,” Todd Haynes
“Another Round,” Thomas Vinterberg
“The August Virgin,” Jonas Trueba

Fanny Ardant, “DNA”
Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, “Summer of 85”
Emilie Dequenne, “Love Affair(s)”
Noémie Lvovsky, “How to Be a Good Wife”
Yolande Moreau, “How to Be a Good Wife”

Edouard Baer, “How to Be a Good Wife”
Louis Garrel, “DNA”
Benjamin Lavernhe, “My Donkey, My Lover & I”
Vincent Macaigne, “Love Affairs”
Nicolas Mairé, “Bye Bye Morons”

Mélissa Guers, “La Fille Au Bracelet”
India Hair, “Poissonsexe”
Julia Piaton, “Love Affairs”
Camille Rutherford, “Felicità”
Fathia Youssouf, “Cuties”

Guang Huo, “La Nuit Venue”
Félix Lefebvre, “Summer of 85”
Benjamin Voisin, “Summer of 85”
Alexandre Wetter, “Miss”
Jean-Pascal Zadi, “Tout Simplement Noir”

Albert Dupontel, “Bye Bye Morons”
Caroline Vignal, “My Donkey, My Lover & I”
Emmanuel Mouret, “Love Affairs”
Filippo Meneghetti, Malysone Bovorashy, “Two of Us”
Benoît Delépine & Gustave Kerven, “Effacer L’Historique”

Olivier Assayas, “Wasp Network”
Hannelore Cayre, Jean-Paul Salomé, “Mamma Weed”
François Ozon, “Summer of 85”
Stéphanie Demoustier, “La Fille Au Bracelet”
Eric Barbier, “Petit Pays”

Alexis Kavyrchine, “Bye Bye Morons”
Antoine Parouty, Paul Guilhaume, “Adolescents”
Simon Beaufils, “My Donkey, My Lover & I”
Laurent Desmet, “Love Affairs”
Hichame Alaouié, “Summer of 85”

Christophe Pinel, “Bye Bye Morons”
Tina Baz, “Adolescents”
Annette Dutertre, “My Donkey, My Lover & I”
Marital Salomon, “Les Choses Qu’On Dit, Les Choses Qu’On Fait”
Laure Gardette, “Summer of 85”

Mimi Lempicka, “Bye Bye Morons”
Madeline Fontaine, “How to Be a Good Wife”
Hélène Davoudian, “Love Affairs”
Anaïs Romand & Sergio Ballo, “De Gaulle”
Pascaline Chavanne, “Summer of 85”

Carlos Conti, “Bye Bye Morons”
Thierry François, “How to Be a Good Wife”
David Faivre, “Love Affairs”
Nicolas De Boiscuillé, “De Gaulle”
Benoît Barouh, “Summer of 85”

“Calamity, Une Enfance De Martha Jane Cannary,” Rémi Chayé
“Josep,” Aurel
“Little Vampire,” Joann Sfar

“Adolescents,” Sébastien Lifshitz
“La Cravate,” Etienne Chaillou, Mathias Théry
“Cyrille Agriculteur, 30 Ans, 20 Vaches, Du Lait, Du Beurre, Des Dettes,” Rodolphe Marconi
“Histoire D’Un Regard,” Mariana Otero
“Un Pays Qui Se Tient Sage,” David Du Fresne

Christophe Julien, “Bye Bye Morons”
Stephen Warbeck, “DNA”
Mateï Bratescot, “My Donkey, My Lover & I”
Jean-Benoït Dunckel, “Summer of 85”
Rone, “La Nuit Venue”