French Film Academy Honors 32 Up-and-Coming Actors at Unique 'Dream Come True' Event

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Young French actors Jules Pelissier, Olivier Barthelemy Nahuel Perez Biscayart and Guillaume Marquet head back to school in Zoe Cassavetes photo expo for Chaumet at the Cesar awards Academy.

The organization joined up with luxury jewelry house Chaumet to house a cocktail Monday night in Paris and give the young talents a chance to shine in the spotlight.

PARIS -- France's Academy of Film Arts and Sciences bejeweled Paris' chic Place Vendome with France's top young talents when luxury jewelry house Chaumet hosted a "Revelations" cocktail and dinner to honor 32 up-and-coming actors and actresses Monday night in Paris.

American director Zoe Cassavetes presented her photos and short film featuring the young stars who will vie for nominations in the most promising actor and actress categories at February's Cesar Awards ceremony.

Chaumet joined the academy for a cocktail and photo expo at its headquarters, followed by a dinner at nearby hotel Le Meurice, with the young talents and their older, wiser and famous mentors, chosen by the talent themselves, including directors Bertrand Tavernier, Nicole Garcia, Fred Cavaye, Christopher Thompson and Xavier Beauvois plus actresses Emmanuelle Devos, Lou Doillon and German star Hanna Schygulla.

"I'm here because two of the actors in my film were chosen and asked me to come," Tavernier said of The Princess of Montpensier co-stars Raphael Personnaz and Gregoire Leprince-Ringuet. He added: "I loved working with them, so I was happy to see them again."

This year's young talents include several fresh faces from famous French film families, like Lea Seydoux, granddaughter of Pathe producer Jerome Seydoux; Ana Girardot, daugher of actor Hippolyte Girardot; and Audrey Lamy, whose sister Alexandra Lamy is an A-list actress in Gaul. Breakout stars in the male category include Edgar Ramirez from the Golden Globe-winning film Carlos plus Olivier Barthelemy, star of Toronto Film Fest title Our Day Will Come, and Nicolas Maury and Johan Libereau from Festival de Cannes Critics Week title Belle Epine.

"It's the first time in the spotlight for these young talents. When they walk into the cocktail and see all of the cameras and photographers waiting for them, it's a dream come true," Chaumet CEO Thierry Fritsch said of the unique event.

Chaumet partnered with the Academy to host a pre-Cesar Awards event seven years ago and has been hosting the young talents night for the past five years. "We wanted to introduce everyone to these kids who represent the cinema of tomorrow," Fritsch said.

Cassavetes took a series of photos of the stars and directed a short film that is now screening online on the websites of both Chaumet and the academy.

"It's a Polaroid of a moment," Fritsch said of the event, adding: "It's like a class photo that we'll look back on years later and ask, 'Where are they now?' It's a time capsule."

The class photo analogy is appropriate since Cassavetes chose school as the backdrop for her photos and one-minute video. "It's a mix of the old, respected house of jewelry Chaumet and bringing that into modern day with music, youth and energy," Cassavetes said.

Chaumet gave Cassavetes carte blanche to do anything she wanted with her photos and short film. "I thought the archetype of a school was very universal. It has more of a U.S. vibe than a French one, but it's part of movie history so I thought everyone would instantly recognize it."

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Only 14 of the 32 talents selected will earn Cesar nominations, but that didn't stop them from enjoying their time in the spotlight.

"I hardly had to tell them to work -- they were so into it. It made my job easy," Cassavetes said. She added: "I liked the fact that they're so alive and not surrounded by entourages. No one came with an agent. It was such a pure moment. An event like this could never happen in the U.S.. As soon as these kids were seen as bankable, Hollywood would jump on them. French cinema is less like that."

Plus, the choice of Cassavetes to take the photos and direct the film is interesting in itself. She's a U.S. director chosen to represent this very French event sponsored by an exclusively French brand.

Cassavetes herself is now living and working in Paris and is now at the heart of the French film biz. "I feel so fortunate that I've had the chance to discover a whole new culture and make it a part of my life," she said of the transition, adding that: "I realized that I've changed when I go back to the U.S. I had to learn how to slow down a bit and notice things."

While Chaumet still hasn't set up shop in the U.S., Hollywood stars have come calling for Chaumet's jewelry, including Angelina Jolie, Hilary Swank, Julianne Moore, Andie MacDowell, Angela Bassett and even Oprah Winfrey. Actress Sophie Marceau has been the brand's longtime muse. "We have a real love for cinema here at Chaumet," Fritsch said.

There's no product placement involved in the event, so why does the jewelry house fund such an expensive evening?

"The reward is their eyes when they're being photographed," Fritsch said. "It's magnificent to see that they dreamed and this dream came true."

After the cocktail, guests headed to le Meurice to sip Tsarine champagne and dine on foie gras, scallops and "Saint Honore" pastry. Cassavetes and friends joined John C. Reilly, in Paris filming Roman Polanski's God of Carnage, at Le Meurice bar for a drink as the evening came to a close.

The 36th annual Cesar awards will be held Feb. 25 in Paris. Nominees will be announced Jan. 21.

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