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Prix Lumière 2010 Celebrate Engaged French Cinema

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Text: Joanna Bronowicka

This year the ceremony of the Prix Lumière, which took place at Hotel de Ville on January 15, 2010, celebrated French cinema for its ardent engagement in current political and social issues. The award for best film went to Welcome, a film by Philippe Lioret about a young Kurdish boy who tries to swim across the Channel to join his sweetheart in London. The release of Welcome put spotlight on the plight of refugees from Iraq and Afghanistan waiting in Calais to cross illegally to Great Britain. The film stirred a lively political debate and led to a creation of a shelter for unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan in Paris.

The international press, which awarded the Prix Lumière for 15th time this year, recognized another politically engaged film, Un Prophete, by awarding Jacques Audiard for best film director and Tahar Rahim for best actor. Un Prophete, a film about a young Arab man who forges his identity in a French prison, was also nominated for the Golden Globes for Best Foreign Language Film.  Neither Jacques Audiard nor Tahar Rahim could make it to the ceremony at Hotel de Ville, because they are both busy promoting their film in Los Angeles.

The best actress award went to Isabelle Adjani, for her spectacular role of a teacher who takes her students hostage in La Journée de la Jupe. The film by Jean-Paul Lilienfeld is a powerful and stinging commentary on the escalation of violence in the high schools of the disadvantaged Parisian suburbs. Awarded filmmakers did not miss an opportunity to participate in the current debate about French national identity. Yamina Benguigui, a film director of Algerian origin, declared on stage that it was cinema that helped to forge her identity as French.

The ceremony was also marked by a recent death of Eric Rohmer and the Lumière Academy paid homage to this great master of French cinema by screening a fragment of an interview with the director. Many laureates, including Mia Hansen-Love who won the best screenplay award for Le pere de mes enfants, stressed that contemporary French filmmakers owe a lot to the cinema of Eric Rohmer. Even though in the middle of ceremony the organizers chose to screen a highly aesthetic, yet morbid film about death called Danse Macabre, the emphasis on difficult issues did not spoil the blissful atmosphere of the cocktail after-party in the Salons of Hotel de Ville.

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