"I believe the Oscars began in 1927. I was 13 at the time, and since that age (how far away that seems now!) I have always been obsessed by the existence of this emblematic character, not flesh and bone, but made of bronze and gilt, with its planetwide reputation. Is this jealousy or emulation?
In any case, the idea of making a French equivalent took hold, until the day when the name of my friend César, that brilliant sculptor, suggested itself and his sculpture with it. Oscar, César, five letters which rhyme so well that the birth of the latter became a sure thing, for the greater good of cinema promotion, in Europe at any rate."
Created in 1974, at the initiative of Georges Cravenne, the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma ("the Academy") is made up of professionals of the film industry and personalities who have come together to reminds us of the eminently collective character of filmmaking, and draw the public’s attention to these professionals whose passion and meticulous skills combine to make cinema so special.
It is to serve this aim that each year they reward the artists, technicians and films which seem to them the most outstanding, by awarding a trophy called the "César" (a personalised reproduction of the work specially created for the purpose by the sculptor César when the Academy was founded).
The Césars are awarded once a year, at the end of the first quarter, following voting by members of the Academy on films released between January 1st and December 31st of the previous year, and on artists and technicians who worked on those films.
On or more Honorary Césars can also be awarded each year to internationally known film actors for their whole body of work.
The results are revealed and the Trophies are given to the winners at an evening called the the "César Ceremony", placed under the chairmanship of an eminent film personality, and which takes place in one of the capital’s most prestigious venues (Theatre de l'Empire, Salle Pleyel, Palais des Congrès, Theatre des Champs-Elysées and such like). Since 2002, the Ceremony has taken place in the Theatre du Châtelet.
This Ceremony has been broadcast on television since its creation, first by Antenne 2 and since 1993 by CANAL +.
Did you know ?
The first César Ceremony was held on April 3rd 1976, with Jean Gabin as Chairman, at the Théâtre de l'Empire.
Originally 13 Césars were awarded. Over the years this number has fluctuated, with the creation of new awards or the abandonment of others. Up to 22 trophies were awarded in a single ceremony (1991).
Among these, the "César for Best Short Film” was created in 1977 , the "César for Best First Film” in 1982, the "César for Best Female Newcomer” and “César for Best Male Newcomer" in 1983, in honour of Romy Schneider and Patrick Dewaere; and 1985 saw the arrival of the “César for Best Costumes”.
The award for Best Adaptation, created in 1983, only survived for two years, to disappear in 1986, and was reborn in 2006.
The César for Best Poster was created in 1986, then disappeared from the honour roll in 1990.
The Best European Film category appeared for a single year, 1989, and was then forgotten the following year, only to return to the stage between 2003 and 2005.
The César for Best French-language Film was awarded just once, in 1985, that for Best Producer twice, in 1996 and 1997, while the César for Best Advertising Film managed to cling on for three years, from 1985 to 1987.
Documentary Films had awards every year from 1976 to 1991 except for 1987, in a César for Best Documentary that combined short and feature-length films. It was only after an absence of sixteen years that a César for Best Documentary Film returned to the honour roll in 2008, but this time awarded only for feature-length films.
Animated films have been present since the very first edition of the Césars, only for short films, thanks to the César for Best Animation Short. It too was dropped in 1987, but returned the following year, still awarded only for short films, and stayed till 1991.
2011 saw the return of animation to the honour roll, with the César for Best Animation Film, which covered both short and feature-length films in one prize.
Nowadays, twenty-two trophies are awarded (in twenty-one categories, because animated features have two statuettes...): Actress/Actor, Supporting Actress/Actor, Female/Male Newcomer, Director, Film, First Film, Documentary Film, Animation Film (short film and feature film), Foreign Film, Short Film, Original Screenplay, Adaptation, Original Score, Set, Photography, Sound, Editing and Costumes.
The presidents of the Academy
Robert Enrico : 1976 - 1986
Jeanne Moreau : 1986 - 1988
Alexandre Mnouchkine : 1988 - 1990
Jean Loup Dabadie : 1990 - 1992
Daniel Toscan du Plantier : 1992 - 2003
Alain Terzian since 2003