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Omar Sy Makes History: 1st Black Actor To Win César Award For Best Actor (French Equivalent Of Oscars)

by Tambay A. Obenson
February 24, 2012 6:33 PM
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His big year (or is it 2 years, since this all began in 2011) continues...

After being labeled a French black cinema icon, and then winning the Lumière award (essentially the French equivalent of the Golden Globes), in the Best Actor category, our man Omar Sy later picked up a nomination for the highest acting honor in France, the César Award for Best Actor - the French equivalent of the Oscar/Academy Award).

The awards ceremony just wrapped up in Paris, and let me be one of the first Statesiders to say congrats to Mr Sy for winning the César Award for Best Actor

I did some research, looking at the long list of all the actors who've won the award in that specific category (Best Actor) since they were first given out in 1976, and I determined that he's made history, being the first black man to win that particular award. But our French readers can correct me on that if I'm incorrect, although I don't believe I am. I looked up every single actor who's won the award, and none of them is black... until now anyway.

So it's like Sidney Poitier winning it for Lilies Of The Field in 1963. Wow.

The film he stars in, Intouchables, also received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Cinematography and more; Sy's co-star, François Cluzet, who wasn't nominated for a Lumière, received a nod this time around in the same category.

But the film only walked away with that single award win out of 9 total nominations.

And I'll finally get to see Intouchables when it makes its stateside debut at the 17th edition of Rendez-Vous with French Cinema here in NYC, which runs from March 1-11, with more than two dozen French films making their stateside or New York premieres.

Check out the full list winners, courtesy of Deadline:

Best Picture
The Artist, producer: Thomas Langmann

Michel Hazanavicius – The Artist

Bérénice Bejo, The Artist

Omar Sy, Untouchable

Supporting Actress
Carmen Maura, Les Femmes Du 6e Etage

Supporting Actor
Michel Blanc, L’Exercice De L’Etat

Original Screenplay
Pierre Schoeller – L’Exercice De L’Etat

Adapted Screenplay
Yasmina Reza, Roman Polanski – Carnage

Newcomer (Female) – TIE
Naidra Ayadi, Polisse
Clotilde Hesme, Angèle Et Tony

Newcomer (Male)
Grégory Gadebois, Angèle Et Tony

Original Score
Ludovic Bource – The Artist

Olivier Hespel, Julie Brenta, Jean-Pierre Laforce – L’Exercice De L’Etat

Guillaume Schiffman – The Artist

Laure Gardette, Yann Dedet – Polisse

Anaïs Romand – House Of Tolerance

Art Direction
Laurence Bennett – The Artist

First Film
Le Cochon De Gaza, director: Sylvain Estibal

Foreign Film
A Separation, director: Asghar Farhadi

Animated Film
Le Chat Du Rabbin, directors: Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvaux

Tous Au Larzac, director: Christian Rouaud

Short Film
L’Accordeur, director: Olivier Treiner

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  • sonohrina | April 5, 2012 1:56 AMReply

    Omar Sy is a beautiful actor and is a beautiful boy!!! =)

  • Simone | February 25, 2012 12:59 AMReply

    Omar Sy, Untouchable is the first black actor to receive a nomination for best actor, and he won without have received any other nomination since he plays, in France you have those categories best male rising talent, best woman rising talent who don't exist in the Oscars, a few year a Aissa Maiga has got a nomination for best woman rising talent for the movie Bamako, but Omar Sy is not the black who has won a Cesar award. The first black to win a Cesar is miss Euzhan Palcy who won the Cesar award in 1984 for the best first movie call Rue Case Nègre, in english “Sugar Cane Alley” (this category is not exist in Oscars) Cesar refuse to give nomination for the cast member, i remember the movie won big at the Mostra of Venice in 1983 with the silver lion for the movie and the best female actress for Darling Légitimus who played lead role of M’man Tine(the grandmother of José), she died in 1999 and she wasn't mentioned and remember by Cesar in people who has lost. It's black actors and actress movement call freedom (who fight for more black actors and actress in French film) without invitation in the ceremony who salute her work and remember her. The black actor who receive a cesar is Will Smith in honor of in his entire career (for all movies he has done) I'm not saying it is not a good for Omar, but cinema is still segregated in France you have a lack of representation of black actors and actress in the movie and in the media, French producer explain that people isn't ready to see many black people in the movie, one maybe, two no, is too much. I hope a change gonna come, wait and see, just all over the world is very very difficult to be black, every black has the same problem we must join our force to fight, Thank you Mrs Tambay for everything you're doing to make black cinema shine, we need you and need every people to support black movie.

  • CT | February 25, 2012 10:27 AM

    Thank you for the education Simone, we are with you in this struggle against the status quo. We ae based in UK, where it is juts slightly better so if you need support please contact me at screennation @

  • Rodney | February 25, 2012 12:08 AMReply

    Didn't Isaach DeBankole win this award before?

  • simone | February 25, 2012 12:21 PM

    Isaac De Bankolé won a Cesar best rising talent in 1987 for a movie call Black Mic Mac, (Oscars don't have this category) he didn't have many roles in French cinema, he's become an international actor and French movie producer forgot him. He live in the USA and he the husband of the Singer Cassandra Wilson. He's from Ivory Coast. Rodney you're have reason.

  • Yvon | February 25, 2012 12:17 PM

    Issaac de Bankole won the Cesar Award for best newcomer in 1987.
    Euzhan Palcy won the Cesar Award for best first film in 1984 and then 17 international awards including four at Venice International Film Festival including the Silver Lion and Best actress awards (for Darling Legitimus). It impressed Robert Redford enough to bring a reluctant Palcy in the US as Warner Bros was beggging her to come. The Sundance's founder famously became her Godfather. Then she brought Marlon Brando back to the screen after a gap of 9 years, the legend was si adamant to make his comeback with her that he proposed to play for her free but had to agree to be paid at union scale. Palcy became the first black female director produced by major Hollywood studio and won the Orwon Welles Awards.

    Six years before "Sugar Cane Alley" had not even been watched by Cannes staff. A film with such a title with an entire black cast speaking creole coming out of a former french coloniy were we can not even imagine they can hold a camera based on a novel that was blacklisted and made by a black woman was not even worthy of being been tested. But in 2010, 27 years after “Sugar Cane Alley “ was selected for the third time by the French National Educational Organization (the organization that chooses the films from all over the world to be studied in French schools) then breaking the record of any films participating to the system in the history of the organization. The statistics say than more 14 millions people saw the film in theaters. Think now about Darling Legitimus, the grand mother in "Sugar Cane Alley". She won the Best Actress award at Venice Internationa film Festival in 1983. The stats show that only five French actress won it since 1932 (Since the world oldest film festival's birth) and you know what ? Darling Legitimus had not even been nominated for the Cesar award in 1984. and dont tell me it is greatest star did not make it : Bette Davis, Kathrin Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland won it.
    Legitimus award for Sugar Cane Alley happened after a 15 years hiatus of the festival's award (the comeback on the world stage).
    So please don't forget ever what the pioneers did. Give people a chance. Good films are just Good. They are moving us.

  • Kal | February 24, 2012 9:06 PMReply

    Congratulations to Mr Sy. I watched Intouchables. What a performance! Great to see France reward the great performance of a black actor in a category that also included a white actor (Jean Dujardin) who's been cleaning out awards this season. Where are all the posters? There should be more reactions to this historical win.

  • Simone | February 25, 2012 6:23 PM

    Thank you Yvon for this beautiful comment.

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