The first winner of France’s awards season was unveiled during a luncheon ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, with Philippe Faucon’s Fatima taking the Louis Delluc Critics’ Prize for best French film.
The realist drama explores the challenges facing an Algerian cleaner living in Lyon and is adapted from books by Fatima Elayoubi.
The prize is awarded by a jury led by former Cannes Film Festival president Gilles Jacob and including 16 of France’s top film critics and personalities.
“It’s a very strong feeling for me, though it’s confusing,” Faucon told The Hollywood Reporter. “It is very important for such a film. I’m very pleased the jury has selected this story.”
With the topic of immigration at the forefront of European news and politics, he hopes the pic can foster understanding and discussion. “In the time that we are living in right now, I hope the film can ‘open the skies’ a little bit,” said the filmmaker.
Among those also competing for the prize were Stephane Brize’s The Measure of a Man, which won a best actor trophy for star Vincent Lindon at Cannes, and Arnaud Desplechin’s My Golden Days, which, like Fatima, premiered in the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight. Antoine Barraud’s art-world drama Portrait of the Artist, Xavier Gianolli’s opera dramedy Marguerite, Bruno Podalydes’ The Sweet Escape and Philippe Garrel’s In the Shadow of Women also had been on the shortlist. Rounding out the competition was Rithy Panh’s The Missing Picture, which won the top prize in Cannes’ Un Certain Regard section in 2013 and was nominated for a best foreign-language film Oscar as a submission from Cambodia last year, but was only released in October in France.
Nicolas Pariser’s political thriller The Great Game was named best first film. Clement Cogitore’s The Wakhan Front, which premiered in the Cannes Critics’ Week, and Mustang, Deniz Gamze Erguven’s best foreign-language Oscar submission from France, were also among those competing in the first-timers’ category. Thomas Salvador’s Vincent and Cyprien Vial’s Young Tiger rounded out the category.
It was a lucky day for Pariser, who was also celebrating the release of Great Game, which opened Wednesday across France. “It was not planned, but we chose this date a long time before we learned that the Louis Delluc ceremony was today,” said the filmmaker. “So it’s a very special day for me because the movie is honored and also the first day of my film.”
Pariser said of the film’s star: “It was a dream to work with Clemence [Poesy]. She gives a lot to the director. She’s a hard worker and very dedicated. There is an eight-minute shot with a lot of text, and she was marvelous.”
Olivier Assayas’ Sils Maria took home the Louis Delluc prize for best French film last year. Star Kristen Stewart went on to make history by becoming the first American to take home the best supporting actress Cesar, the French equivalent of the Oscar. Adele Haenel earned best actress honors for her role in Love at First Fight, which won in the best first film category last year.