LOS ANGELES, March 3, (Agencies): Robin Campillo’s “BPM (Beats Per Minute),” a bold group portrait of Parisian AIDS activists at ACT UP in the early 1990s, scooped six Cesar Awards, including best film, original script, male newcomer, supporting actor and music at tonight’s ceremony which took place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris. The awards are France’s highest film honors.
Campillo made the most political speech of the evening. The director said many of the social issues people fought for 25 years ago are still current today. Campillo spoke about an pending law which will put refugees in greater danger. “As it was the case 25 years ago, silence is death,” Campillo concluded.
Produced by Marie-Ange Luciani and Hugues Charbonneau, “BPM” world-premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize. It was later chosen to represent France in the foreign-language Oscar race but surprisingly failed to get shortlisted.
Andrey Zvyagintsev’s “Loveless,” which is also nominated for a foreign-language Oscar, won the Cesar award for best foreign film, beating Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” Damien Chazelle’s “La La Land” and Ruben Ostlund’s Cannes’s Palme d’Or winner “The Square,” among other strong contenders.
Albert Dupontel’s “Au Revoir La-Haut” won five Cesar awards, including best director, while Hubert Charuel’s “Petit Paysan” won three awards, including best first film and actor for Swan Arlaud.
One of the evening’s highlights included the honorary Cesar given to Penelope Cruz presented by Pedro Almodovar and Marion Cotillard.
Almodovar said Cruz belongs to a breed of strong yet fragile women and Mediterranean screen icons such as Sophia Loren, Juliette Binoche and Anna Magnani.
Cruz, who was visibly moved, said France has always been “generous” with her ever since she starred in “Dom Juan” more than 20 years ago. “France is a place where artists have an important place and where there is a love for culture and freedom which inspires us,” said Cruz.
The actress, who recently wrapped Asghar Farhadi’s “Everybody Knows,” in which she stars opposite Javier Bardem, also paid tribute to Almodovar whom she said made her decide to become an actress, and thanked him for the homage he gives to women through his films.
Cruz later talked about #MeToo and Time’s Up to journalists in the press room. “It’s the beginning of a necessary change in the world everywhere and not just in our industry. Hopefully it will give a voice to women who don’t have very public jobs and who need a lot of attention and care; as in cases of domestic violence,” said Cruz.
This year’s Cesar Awards took place against the backdrop of several female-driven campaigns aimed at highlighting inequality, harassment and promoting change in the film industry in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.
Earlier this week, two initiatives were launched by prominent French film industry figures — 5050 Pour 2020, which promotes gender equality in the movie business; and #NowWeAct (Maintenant On Agit), the French equivalent to Time’s Up which was set up by the Fondation des Femmes and is being backed by France’s Cesar Academy. White ribbons were given to every guest at this evening’s Cesar Awards to support #NowWeAct. Speaking to a French newspaper LeJDD on Wednesday, Alain Terzian, the president of the French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques, said “we must be obsessed by the issue of equality between women and men.”
Beyond white ribbons, the Cesar Awards did not promote wearing black as was seen at the Golden Globes. Isabelle Huppert wore a shiny white outfit, while Penelope Cruz, the honorary Cesar winner, wore a bright purple gown.
#Metoo was addressed throughout the evening. The show’s host Manu Payet asked all the guests to stand up in support of #NowWeAct and alluded to 5050 Pour 2020 when describing the best female newcomer award. “The best female newcomer prize is the same as the male’s with a 30% pay cut,” joked Payet.
Meanwhile, French comedy actress Blanche Gardin, who announced the best female newcomer, joked that “It’s great that producers now know they can’t … actresses (but) can we still have … with them to get parts? Because if we can’t we’ll have to start learning lines, do auditions… and we don’t have time,” quipped Gardin, spurring burst of laughter in the audience.
The French film world may be having its #MeToo moment.
One after another, stars showed up at the industry’s top awards show Friday wearing a white ribbon in a protest against sexual misconduct. Throughout the Cesar Awards ceremony, presenters and winners referenced the movement that has campaigned for an end to abuses by powerful men.
And the packed concert hall stood in ovation as the presenter called on everyone to support the #MaintenantOnAgit (Now We Act) campaign launched this week, aimed at raising money to help women pursue legal complaints against abusers.
Anger over sexual violence and demands for gender equality in the cinema industry charged the atmosphere around this year’s Cesars — much like around the Oscars coming up Sunday in Hollywood.
List of winners
n Best Film: “BPM,” Robin Campillo
n Best Director: Albert Dupontel, “Au revoir La-Haut”
n Best Actress: Jeanne Balibar, “Barbara”
n Best Actor: Swan Arlaud, “Petit Paysan”
n Best Female Newcomer: Camelia Jordana, “Le Brio”
n Best Male Newcomer: Nahuel Perez Biscayart, “BPM”
n Best Supporting Actor: Antoine Reinartz, “BPM”
n Best Supporting Actress: Sara Giraudeau, “Petit Paysan”