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History Could Be Made Tonight at the 40th César Awards (French Equivalent of the Oscars)

History Could Be Made Tonight at the 40th César Awards (French Equivalent of the Oscars)

UPDATE: I’ll be updating this post as the award winners are announced, assuming any of the below nominees wins. So please refresh this page about every 15 minutes to see if any updates have been made. You can read the original post underneath the updates to catch up. 

– 3:45pm – “Timbuktu” picks up the César Award for Best Sound Design and Best Cinematography
– 4pm – “Timbuktu” picks up the César Award for Best Original Music (Amine Bouhafa)
– 4:45pm – “Timbuktu” wins the César Award for Best Original Screenplay (penned by Abderrahman Sissako and Kessen Tall)


The Academy Awards (aka the Oscars) are set for this Sunday night, here in the USA; but before that event, you should be aware that, across the Atlantic, in France, the 40th César Awards ceremony, which are essentially the French equivalent of the Oscars, takes place tonight, at the Théâtre du Châtelet, in Paris, France.

Presented by the French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques (Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma), the celebration will honor the best films of 2014 in France. The ceremony will be hosted actor Édouard Baer, acting as master of ceremonies for the second time.

Of note to this blog, while many of us here in the USA mourn the absence of blacks in Oscar contention, you should note that the picture painted by the Césars is quite different, with 5 feature films that tell stories centered on the lives of people of African descent receiving nominations in various key categories.

The breakdown follows below:

1 – Abderrahmane Sissako’s “Timbuktu” received an astounding 8 nominations: Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Sound Design, Best Original Music, Best Production Design.

2 – “Girlhood” picked up 4 nominations – Best Director, Best Female Newcomer, Best Original Music, Best Sound Design.

3 – In the Best First Feature Film César Award category, “May Allah Bless France!” directed by Abd Al Malik is nominated.

4 – In the Best Male Newcomer category, Marc Zinga (“May Allah Bless France!”) and Ahmed Dramé (“Once in a Lifetime”) are both nominated.

5 – And in the Best Female Newcomer category, Karidja Touré (“Girlhood”) is nominated.

6 – Finally, “12 Years a Slave” is nominated in the Best Foreign Feature category (it was a 2013 film for us here in the USA; but it wasn’t released in France until early 2014. So it’s a 2014 film for them).

This is a record-breaking year for the César Awards in terms of the number of nominations for “black films” and black actors combined (16 total). Consider that, it was just 3 years ago when Omar Sy made César Award history by becoming the very first black actor to, not only be nominated for the Best Actor César, he also became the first black man to win the César award for Best Actor, in the awards then 37 year history. It was a win akin to Sidney Poitier winning the Best Actor award for “Lilies of the Field” in 1963, 49 years prior! So that was a big deal for him, for the Césars, and even for France. But it should give you some idea of just how often black talents are nominated for, much less win at the Césars.

Whether history will be made tonight, at the 40th César Awards ceremony, remains to be seen. That Sissako’s “Timbuktu” received a total of 8 nominations is huge! And in key categories too – Best Picture, Director, Writing, etc… According to the French press, the film is a front-runner to win in a number of categories because, 2 weeks ago, at the 20th annual Lumières awards – essentially the French equivalent of the Golden Globes – “Timbuktu” was a big winner, taking home trophies in the Best Film and Best Director categories! This is Sissako’s first ever César nomination, and the first for a filmmaker representing Mauritania. 

Previous directors of African descent who directed films that won the award for Best Picture include just one: Tunisian Abdellatif Kechiche, who’s won twice for Best Director and Best Film (in 2005 and 2008). 

Also worth noting, every nominee listed above is a César Award first-timer.

Both “Timbuktu” and “Girlhood” have been released in the USA (last month), but Abd Al Malik’s “May Allah Bless France!” and Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar’s “Once in a Lifetime” have not. That might change with wins for each tonight (in the Best Male Newcomer and Best First Feature Film categories). We’ve profiled both films on this blog; although “Once in a Lifetime, which (from available marketing materials) looks like a “Dangerous Minds” rehash, got the proverbial “gas face” from us! Meanwhile, Malik’s “May Allah Bless France!” is an adaptation of his 2004 autobiography, chronicling his upbringing in the crime- and drug-ridden streets of Strasbourg, leading up to his life-changing encounters with hip hop and religion. It’s been touring the international film festival circuit, since its Toronto International Film Festival debut last year.

Check out the full list of nominees here.

In recent years, I’ve been able to watch the César Awards online, via a live stream; but I don’t believe they were approved and official streams. So, I’m not sure if it’s something that I’ll be able to do this year as well. But if I’m able to find a stream, I’ll likely live-tweet the event tonight, especially if any of the above nominees win.

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