Oscar-Nominated 'Timbuktu' Wins French Academy's Producer Prize

Sylvie Pialat

Producer Sylvie Pialat took home the prize for the second time, accompanied by director Abderrahmane Sissako, as the two prep for Friday's Cesar awards and a trip to L.A. for the Oscars.

For the second time in as many years, Sylvie Pialat was awarded the French Academy’s top producers’ prize in a ceremony Monday night.

The Timbuktu producer, who works under her Films du Worso banner, also took home the Daniel Toscan du Plantier prize last year for Stranger by the Lake.

She was selected from more than 50 candidates who make up the who’s who of the French cinema business, including The Belier Family producer Stephanie Bermann of Mars Productions, Girlhood producer Benedicte Couvreur from Hold Up Productions, Queen and Country producer Jean Labadie from La Pacte productions and Love at First Fight producer Pierre Guyard of Nord-Ouest Films, among other luminaries.

At an intimate dinner ceremony at the swank Hotel Georges V in Paris, Pialat thanked Timbuktu director Abderrahmane Sissako for “an extraordinary year,” as he cheered from the group’s table, along with the film’s star, Toulou Kiki.

Before the ceremony, she told The Hollywood Reporter that the night was the end of a long journey and the beginning of an exciting week. “I’ve been with Abderrahmane from the beginning, from the desert to here,” she said. “It was very important for Abderrahmane to be here because you know everything began here. The money was from France and he wanted to say thank you,” she said of the best foreign language nominee, which was submitted from Mauritania.  

Though Sissako just returned from L.A., the duo will be present at the Cesar Awards on Friday night before flying back to California for the Oscars on Sunday.

For his part, Sissako isn’t nervous about this week’s double awards. “No, there’s no reason. There are a lot of reasons to be nervous before filming, because during the filming many things that can happen, but after? The film exists, and that is the most important thing,” he laughed.

Making the Hollywood rounds has been fun, he added. “Los Angeles was magnificent. I met many of the other nominees and it was very, very interesting for me. Plus, it’s America. It’s very big and very different.”

Directors, including Pascale Ferran (Bird People), Celine Sciamma (Girlhood), Marie Amachoukeli (Party Girl) and producer Radu Mihaileanu (Cartoonists: Footsoldiers of Democracy), mingled with acting nominees Pierre Niney (Yves Saint Laurent), Eric Elmosnino (The Belier Family) and Vincent Lacoste (Hippocrates), along with minister of culture Fleur Pellerin, who introduced the award.

Sciamma attended with her film’s star, Karidja Toure, and producer Couvreur. “I’m here for her since she’s been there for me a lot,” said the director, deflecting any worry about Friday’s awards. “I don’t think I will be the one to be called, I’m just happy to be nominated and I think as a young, female director, I think it’s already great recognition.”

While the awards circuit in Hollywood lasts for weeks, it’s only the second fete for French film, after Saturday’s nominees luncheon, also attended by Guillaume Canet, Charlotte Le Bon and Mathieu Amalric.