Words by Eliya Weinstein

The 49th César Awards were held at the Olympia in Paris, presented by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma. With over 20 awards, the ceremony celebrates the 16 best French films of 2023.

The nominations were announced on the 24th of January. Thomas Cailley’s The Animal Kingdom (Le Règne Animal) amassed 12 nominations. The film follows a father as he embarks on a quest with his son to save his wife from a mutation that slowly transforms humans into animals. The film competed in 8 categories with Justine Triet’s Anatomy of a Fall (Anatomie d’une Chute), which had a total of 11 nominations. Both a murder-mystery and a courtroom drama, it stars German actress Sandra Hüller, also nominated for Oscar and BAFTA Awards, as a novelist put on trial for her husband’s murder. All Your Faces (Je Verrai Toujours Vos Visages) by Jeanne Herry, a story about the practice of restorative justice, also garnered 9 nominations, including 4 out of 5 in the Best Supporting Actress category. The Goldman Case (Le Procès Goldman) was nominated for 8 Cesar awards, based in the mid 70s but dealing with still-relevant issues of antisemitism and flaws in the judicial system.

Actress Judith Godrèche gave a much-anticipated speech denouncing the sexual violence that haunts French cinema. She received a standing ovation after questioning the denial and privilege of those with power within the industry, following her accusations of sexual assault against Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon, both directors. Around 100 people demonstrated in front of the Olympia to support victims of gender-based and sexual violence, and the decision that year’s César Awards would implement a rule to not nominate and award those accused in court for acts of violence. ymbolically, the first award of the night went to Adèle Exarchopoulos for Best Supporting Actress in All Your Faces, where she portrays a victim of incest.

The Best Director of the César Awards was given to Justine Triet for Anatomy of a Fall, who is now the second woman to win the category in the history of the Césars. She, along with Arthur Harari, also received Best Original Screenplay. Anatomy of a Fall also won Best Editing for the work of Laurent Sénéchal.

The Award for Best Actor went to Arieh Worthalter for The Goldman Case, and the Best Actress was received by Sandra Hüller for Anatomy of a Fall. Best Supporting Actor was awarded to Swann Arlaud, also for his performance in Anatomy of a Fall. The Female Revelation Award went to Ella Rumpf for her role in Marguerite’s Theorem (Le Théorème de Marguerite) for her role as the prodigal mathematician Marguerite. Raphaël Quenard took The Male Revelation Award for his role in the coming-of-age tale set in the south of France, Junkyard Dog (Chien de la Casse).

The Best Adapted Screenplay went to Valérie Donzelli’s adaptation of Donzelli and Audrey Diwan’s screenplay Just The Two Of Us (L’Amour et les Forêts). Set during a pandemic’s lockdown, the film depicts the lives of a dysfunctional couple forced to remain together as their relationship crumbles.

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The Animal Kingdom received a number of awards, such as Best Cinematography, by David Cailley and Best Costumes by Ariane Daurat. For its collaborative work by Fabrice Osinski, Raphaël Sohier, Matthieu Fichet and Niels Barletta it also received Best Sound, as well as Best Visual Effects by Cyrille Bonjean, Bruno Sommier and Jean-Louis Autret and Best Original Music by Andreas Laszlo de Simone.

Junkyard Dog by Jean-Baptiste Durand, a coming-of-age tale set in the south of France, was awarded Best First Film. The Best Animated Feature was awarded to Chicken for Linda! (Linda Veut du Poulet!), Chiara Malta and Sébastien Laudenbach’s comedy, in which a mother does everything in her power to cook a chicken for her daughter, whom she has unjustly punished. The Best Documentary was awarded to Four Daughters (Les Filles d’Olfa) by Kaouther Ben Hania which tells the story of Olfa Hamrouni and the sisterhood of her four daughters in Tunisia. The Best Documentary Short went to Gala Hernández López for La Mécanique des FluidsSummer 96 (Été 96) by Mathilde Bédouet was voted Best Animated Short, an animation about a family who become stuck on an island during a picnic. Expecting (L’Attente), Alice Douard’s romantic short, won Best Fiction Short Film. The Canadian film The Nature of Love (Simple Comme Sylvian) by Monia Chokri took Best Foreign Film, beating out Christopher Nolans Oppenheimer. The award for Best Production Design was given to Stéphanie Taillasson for The Three Musketeers (Parts 1 & 2).

After numerous other César Awards, Anatomy of A Fall was announced as Best Film. A second honorary César was awarded to Christopher Nolan, who arrived in Paris for the ceremony in the final lap of the Oppenheimer Academy Awards campaign. Agnès Jaoui also received an honorary César for her magnificent career and her seven César Awards.

Editor: Marie-Pauline Cesari