'A Prophet' tipped to sweep the 35th annual César film awards
The Châtelet Theatre in Paris hosts the 35th annual César awards, the French film industry’s highest honour, on Saturday. “A Prophet”, a compelling film about prison life directed by Jacques Audiard, is favoured to sweep the awards.
The 35th annual César awards – France’s equivalent of the Oscars – take place in Paris Saturday night (watch the event on france24.com from 8:30pm GMT+1). This year’s mistress of ceremonies is Marion Cotillard, winner of two Césars and an Oscar, and the latest French actress to find success across the Atlantic. She will be flanked by popular French entertainers Valérie Lemercier and Gad Elmaleh, who will undoubtedly add a light comedy touch to the evening.
"Un Prophète" (A Prophet), a film that sold over 1.2 million tickets, explores the underbelly of prison life. It has been nominated in 13 categories, including best film, best director (Jacques Audiard), best supporting actor (Niels Arestrup), best actor (Tahar Rahim), and best newcomer (Tahar Rahim and Adel Bencherif).
“A l’Origine” (In the Beginning) by Xavier Giannoli is nominated in 11 categories, including best film, best director, best actor (François Cluzet), and best supporting actress (Emmanuelle Devos). Filmed in the northern region of Cambrai, Giannoli’s lighthearted film is about a con man who pretends to be a foreman overseeing the construction of a highway. This low-budget film paired Gérard Depardieu and Emmanuelle Devos, who had played lovers in Giannoli’s previous film “Quand j’étais chanteur” (When I was a singer). The movie was seen by 310,000 moviegoers.
Director Philippe Lioret’s “Welcome” is a searing indictment of the injustices faced by migrants at the port of Calais, in northern France. The film's release coincided with a controversial push by the government to clear migrant camps in the region. It benefited from top reviews and was seen by 1.2 million people.
A fifth César for Isabelle Adjani?
Also noteworthy is “La journée de la jupe” (“The Day of the Skirt”) by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld, a film about a teacher who snaps and holds her class hostage. The role of the teacher is played by legendary screen siren Isabelle Adjani, who is nominated in the best actress category. If she wins this one, it will be her fifth.
French audiences watching the Césars will also be eager to see whether François Cluzet will win a second César for best actor, after his 2007 reward for his part in the thriller “Ne le dis à personne” (“Tell No One”). This year he is nominated twice in the best actor category, for two different films: “A l’origine” and “Le Dernier pour la route” (Last one for the road).
The lifetime achievement award will likely create a stir by putting two members of Hollywood royalty on the same stage. Actress Sigourney Weaver will present the prestigious honour to Harrison Ford. The multifaceted actor has been before the lenses of the top American directors over the last 40 years, including George Lucas (“American Graffiti,” “Star Wars,”), Francis Ford Coppola (The “Conversation”), Ridley Scott (“Blade Runner”), Sydney Pollack (“Sabrina”), not to mention his lengthy collaboration with Steven Spielberg for the Indiana Jones series.
As for the category of best foreign film, the nominees are “Avatar” by James Cameron, “Gran Torino” by Clint Eastwood, who was recently decorated by the hallowed French Legion of Honour, Gus Van Sant’s biopic “Harvey Milk,” “J’ai tué ma mère” (I killed my mother) by Quebec’s Xavier Dolan, the animated Belgian feature “Panique au village” (A town called panic), German director Michael Haneke’s “The White Ribbon”, winner of last year’s Palme d’Or at Cannes, and the already highly-decorated Danny Boyle film “Slumdog Millionaire.”
French movie-going is at its highest level in 27 years, with over 200 million ticket sales in 2009.