Spotlight on minorities, women at ‘French Oscars’
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A record number of women and ethnic minorities will compete on Friday for the Césars, France’s top cinema awards, just two days before an Oscars ceremony blasted for being too male and “too white”.
With several female filmmakers among the nominees and best actress nods from Algeria and Morocco, the broad showing of talent at the César Awards is a far cry from its Hollywood equivalent where a dearth of minority nominees has prompted widespread dismay – and a boycott by prominent stars.
This year’s line-up also features a wealth of challenging entries tackling complex themes such as migration, patriarchy and intolerance.
The Césars are the highlight of the French movie industry's calendar, and Michael Douglas will become the latest Hollywood star to pick up a lifetime achievement award during the ceremony.
The critically acclaimed Franco-Turkish production "Mustang" – also tipped for a best foreign language film Oscar – is a firm favourite at the Césars where it has received nine nominations.
"Mustang", a debut film by Franco-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Erguven, tells the story of five sisters in rural Turkey forced into arranged marriages.
Multiple nods have also been given to "Fatima", a subtle film about a Moroccan woman raising her children in France which highlights the many challenges faced by first- and second-generation immigrants.
Another favourite, nominated nine times, is "Dheepan", a thriller spotlighting the plight of Sri Lankan refugees in France that was a surprise Palme D'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival last year.
The hot-button topics come as Europe battles an unprecedented migrant crisis, which has inspired several filmmakers such as Italy's Gianfranco Rosi, who won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his documentary "Fire at Sea".
Soria Zeroual, an Algerian-born actress is up for a best actress award for "Fatima", and Moroccan Loubna Abidar who played a prostitute in "Much Loved" – which was banned in Morocco – is also in the running for the top award.
However French cinema royalty has not been forgotten in the Césars line-up.
Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert – who between them have racked up 32 Césars nominations over the years – have been nominated for their roles as a couple reuniting for a trip through California's Death Valley after their son's suicide in "Valley of Love".
Catherine Deneuve, 72, long-reigning queen of French cinema, picked up her 14th nomination for her supporting role as a judge trying to help a teenage delinquent in gritty urban drama "Standing Tall" ("La tête haute").
The other big hopeful this year is opera singer biopic "Marguerite", which along with "My Golden Days" – the story of an anthropologist in Tajikistan – scooped the most nominations with 11 nods each.
Women filmmakers are also strongly represented, taking three of the seven nods for best director, compared with the complete absence of women in that category at the Oscars.
(FRANCE 24 with AFP)