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AIDS activism and war are top winners at French Academy Awards

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Actress Penelope Cruz reacts after receiving her Honorary Cesar with director Pedro Almodovar. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

120 Beats per Minute won Best Film on Friday night at the Césars. The Robin Campillo film, which tells the story of French AIDS activists in the 1990s, received 13 nominations and took home six awards. The Best Director award went to Albert Dupontel for Au Revoir là-haut (See You Up There), an adaptation of a Pierre Lemaitre novel about the friendship between two World War I soldiers. It won five awards after also being nominated in 13 categories.


.The Small Farmer and Barbara also won several prizes and were also among the five favourites this year. Only the comedy Le Sens de La Fête (C'est la Vie in English) failed to live up to expectations, failing to win anything despite being nominated in 10 categories.

Both guests and prize winners wore white ribbons in support of the campaign to stop violence and discrimination against women and to mark the launch of the French cinema fund backing the campaign called Let’s Act Now (#OnAgitMaintenant).

Trilingual Argentinian actor Nahuel Perez Biscayart won the award for Best Male Newcomer Actor and clearly contributed to the success of the two films which did well on Friday night at the Salle Pleyel in Paris.

In 120 Beats per Minute, he plays Sean Dalmazo, a young man who has developed AIDS, who is campaigning to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS in the 1990s.

Argentinian actor Nahuel Pérez Biscayart. Reuters

In See You Up There (Au Revoir là-haut) he is the artistic son of a wealthy Parisian gentleman (Niels Arestrup's role) who plays dead after returning from the trenches in World War 1 where he lost most of his face. To do this Thibault, Biscayart’s character, wears striking and elaborate masks to hide his disfigured face.

Apart from winning the Best Film Award 120 Beats per Minute director Robin Campillo, a former real-life AIDS activist himself, took the award for Best Screenplay and Best Editing. The film also won the Best Music Score award. Antoine Reinartz won the Best Supporting Actor. 120 Beats per Minute had already won the Jury’s Grand Prize at Cannes in May 2017.

Meanwhile, See You Up There also won the Best Photography for Vincent Matthias, Best Costumes for Mimi Lempicka and Best Décor, Lilith Bekmezian, as well as Best Adapted Screenplay.

Two other films among those nominated several times stood out. The Small Farmer won the Best First Feature. Directed by Hubert Charuel, this is the story of a young dairy farmer who is faced with losing his entire herd to disease and is taken from Charuel’s own life experiences.

The main actor Swann Arlaud won Best Actor, and his sister in the film, Sarah Girardeau, won Best Supporting Actress.

Sara Giraudeau holds her Best Supporting Actress Cesar for her role in the film Petit paysan (The Small Farmer) and Swann Arlaud holds his Best Actor Cesar for his role in the film The Small Farmer REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Barbara, which won the César for Best Sound delves into the life of the French singer and composer of the 1970s, 80s and 90s called Barbara - real name Monique Serf who died in 1997 - and stars Jeanne Balibar who took home the 2018 César for Best Actress.

Jeanne Balibar holds her Best Actress Cesar for her role in the film Barbara. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Finally, Spanish actress Penelope Cruz was awarded the 43rd César Honorary Award. She also received kind words from French actress Marion Cotillard and Spanish director Pedro Almodovar, who cast her in many of his films(Vicky, Christina, Barcelona, All About My Mother, Volver among others).

She, in return, paid a special tribute to Almodovar, and her mother who was in the audience.