‘French Oscars’ reward femicide film but criticised for lack of women nominees

LOS ANGELES (AFP): The lack of women nominees was a talking point on Friday at the Cesar Awards, France’s answer to the Oscars, despite the top prize going to a film focusing on femicide. 

Best Film went to “The Night of the 12th”, a thriller based on the true story of a young woman’s murder.

There was a spot of Hollywood glitz thanks to a surprise cameo by Brad Pitt, presenting David Fincher (who directed him in “Fight Club” and “Seven”) with a lifetime achievement award.

But there was a lot of focus on the lack of female nominees, with no women up for best director — indeed, none have won the award since 2000 (Tonie Marshall for “Venus Beauty Institute”).

The only woman filmmaker whose movie was in the running for best film was Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, sister of France’s former first lady and singer Carla Bruni.

And her film, “Les Amandiers” (titled “Forever Young” abroad) has been overshadowed by a scandal involving its star, Sofiane Bennacer, who is being investigated by police following allegations of rape and violence against a partner.

“I’m thinking of all the women directors who should have been celebrated tonight,” said Noemie Merlant as she accepted the best supporting actress award for her part in “The Innocent”.

“I am missing them,” added Merlant, who gained international attention in 2019’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”.

There were some other victories for women.

Alice Diop won best debut for “Saint Omer” and told the audience: “We are not just passing through, and we are not just a fad.

“The voice of women is extremely important. I hope we will be here again next year and the years after that,” she said.

Irene Dresel became the first woman ever to win the Cesar for best musical score for “Full Time” and dedicated her award to all women composers, who have only ever been nominated five times at the Cesars.

The issue of women nominees was all the more awkward given that the Cesar Academy went through a root-and-branch renewal in 2020 after Roman Polanski, who has been convicted of raping a child in the 1970s, topped the list of nominees and won best director, triggering angry protests.

It’s not that France lacks female talent: French women directors have taken top prizes at Cannes, Berlin and Venice in the last two years.

“Last year, the Oscar Academy was criticised for having a selection that was so white, and this year for being so male. The 2023 Cesars combine both types of invisibility,” said the 50/50 Collectif, which campaigns for increased female representation in French cinema.

Meanwhile, best actor went to Benoit Magimel for “Pacifiction” and best actress to Virginie Efira for “Paris Memories”.

But the night belonged to “The Night of the 12th” which won a total of six awards, including best director for Dominik Moll.