There was fierce political air at France’s annual film celebration, Les Cesars, on Friday, as frustrations were released over the month-long closure of theaters.
The country has seen increasing protests in recent days over the closure of cultural venues, with several theaters occupied by activists and students.
That frustration was at the center of Friday’s awards, where actress Corinne Masiero dressed naked with the words “No culture, no future” written across her front as she handed out the costume award.
Others used the stage to confront the government over its decision to keep cinemas closed since October, although most other companies have reopened.
“My kids can go to Zara but not to the cinema … it’s incomprehensible,” said Stephane Demoustier as he picked up Cesar for best screenplay for “The Girl with a Bracelet.”
The atmosphere was created from the opening monologue, as the ceremony’s mistress Marina Fois launched a scathing attack on Minister of Culture Roselyne Bachelot.
“The Minister has done nothing … Madame Bachelot, you released a book with your recipe for pasta and gorgonzola,” the actress joked before making a sad note to conclude: “What we lack is what unites us, the emotions we experience. together. “
Also hanging heavy over the ceremony was the memory of last year’s catastrophic event, where the decision to award veteran Polish director Roman Polanski – accused of multiple sexual assaults and statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl – led to stars going out and police tearfully protesting outside.
The entire Cesar Academy board resigned during the construction of the 2020 ceremony due to the uprising over Polanski’s nominations for his film “An Officer and a Spy”, which many saw as proof of the French industry’s failure to respond to the #MeToo movement.
This year’s first awards signaled that the academy was keen to accept calls for greater ethnic diversity, with the most promising actor and actress awards to Jean-Pascal Zadi and Fathia Youssouf.
Zadi’s film, “Tout simplement noir”, plays on racist clichés about black people in France, while 14-year-old Youssouf won for his part in the controversial Netflix film “Mignonnes” about teenage girls caught between the press of Senegalese society and social media .
“The rules of the game are changing, not so that the game ends, but so that it can be played fairly this time,” host Roschdy Zem said earlier in the evening.
But the big winner of the night was “Bye Bye Morons,” a comedy drama about a seriously ill woman looking for her lost child, which took home seven awards, including best film and best director for Albert Dupontel.
Elsewhere, the foreign film award went to the Danish cult favorite Thomas Vinterberg for “Another Round” with Mads Mikkelsen in the lead role as a high school teacher.
There were no major controversies that matched Polanski’s introduction last year, but some noted that much more work was needed for gender equality given the presence of only one woman in each of the best film and best director categories.
Much of the drama this year has been behind the scenes, as the academy climbed to rebuild itself and its reputation with a new board under Veronique Cayla, former head of the cultural channel Arte and director Eric Toledano.