France's highest film awards highlight diversity

Cesar Awards’ line-up will feature complicated themes as migration, intolerance and patriarchy

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Director Deniz Gamze Erguven (2nd L) and cast of "Mustang" arrive for the Hollywood Reporter's 4th Annual Academy Awards Nominees Night in Beverly Hills on February 8, 2016.

Actors from diverse backgrounds and movies tackling complex themes such as migration will be in the spotlight at France's top film awards on Friday, held two days before an Oscars ceremony under fire for being "too white."

With female filmmakers among the nominees and best actress nods from Algeria and Morocco, the broad showing of talent at the Cesar Awards is a far cry from its Hollywood equivalent where a dearth of minority nominees has caused an outcry.

The Cesars are the highlight of the French movie industry's calendar, and Michael Douglas will become the latest Hollywood star to pick up a lifetime achievement award during the ceremony.

The critically acclaimed Franco-Turkish production "Mustang" - also tipped for a best foreign language film Oscar - is a firm favourite at the Cesars where it has received nine nominations.

"Mustang," a debut film by Franco-Turkish director Deniz Gamze Erguven tells the story of five sisters in rural Turkey forced into arranged marriages.

Multiple nods have also been given to "Fatima," a film about an immigrant Moroccan woman raising her children in France - she barely speaks French and they struggle with Arabic - which highlights the many issues around integration.

Another favourite, nominated nine times, is "Dheepan," a thriller spotlighting the plight of Sri Lankan refugees in France that won the top Palme D'Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival last year.

Migration theme

The hot-button topics come as Europe battles an unprecedented migrant crisis, which has inspired several filmmakers such as Italy's Gianfranco Rosi who won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival for his documentary "Fire at Sea."

Algerian-born actress Soria Zeroual is up for a best actress award for "Fatima," and Moroccan Loubna Abidar who played a prostitute in "Much Loved" - which was banned in Morocco - is also in the running for the top award.

However, French cinema royalty has not been forgotten in the Cesars line-up.

Gerard Depardieu and Isabelle Huppert - who between them have racked up 32 Cesars nods over the years - have been nominated for their roles as a couple reuniting for a trip through California's Death Valley after their son's suicide in "Valley of Love".

Catherine Deneuve, 72, long-reigning queen of French cinema, picked up her 14th nomination for her supporting role as a judge trying to help a teenage delinquent in gritty urban drama "Standing Tall" ("La tete haute").

The other big hopeful this year is opera singer biopic "Marguerite," which along with "My Golden Days" - the story of an anthropologist in Tajikistan - scooped the most nominations with 11 nods each.

Women filmmakers are also strongly represented, taking three of the seven nods for best director, compared with the complete absence of women in that category at the Oscars.