Fri, Mar 04, 2005 - Page 17 News List

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Director Abdellatif Kechiche poses with his Cesar for best director at the annual French film awards ceremony.

PHOTO: EPA

No longer under lock and key, Diary of a Mad Black Woman opened in top spot at the North American box office last weekend raking in US$21.9 million.

Diary stars the film's director, Tyler Perry, as a gun-toting, marijuana-smoking grandmother figure to Helen, a woman whose seemingly perfect life takes a depressing turn when she is dumped by her husband for another woman.

The comedy is based on a play with the same title written by Perry.

In second place was Will Smith's comedy Hitch, which had held first place for two weeks, with an expected take of US$20.4 million, according to box office trackers Exhibitor Relations Co Inc.

The supernatural thriller Constantine starring Keanu Reeves was in third place with US$12 million.

In Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, hundreds gathered to watch a special African drinking ceremony over the weekend to honor the dead and hold a minute's silence for departed African filmmakers as part of festivities during the continent's biggest film festival.

Twenty feature-length movies from across Africa are competing for the Gold Stallion of Yennenga, to be awarded to the film that best depicts African realities, as part of the 19th biennial Pan African Film and Television Festival of Ouagadougou (Fespaco) in the Burkina Faso capital.

The drinking ceremony is an ancient tradition in the form of an offering to the gods of a cup of wine, a cup of milk and another beverage cast on the ground.

Hundreds of filmmakers, journalists and members of the public watched on the second day of the festival, marred at its opening Saturday by a stampede in which two people were killed and 14 were injured.

Oscar hopefuls The Choristers and A Very Long Engagement on Saturday scooped a total of seven Cesars at the French cinema industry's awards ceremony, but missed out on the top awards.

At the French film industry gala on the eve of Hollywood's annual movie bonanza, the little-fancied L'Esquive (The Dodge) ran off with four awards, including best film, best director and best screenplay.

Abdellatif Kechiche's film, a tale of adolescents in a deprived suburb rehearsing for a play by the 18th-century playwright Marivaux, also captured the award for best up-and-coming actress, which went to Sara Forestier.

A Very Long Engagement, with five awards, was the biggest single winner on the night, with Marion Cotillard claiming the most prestigious award, for best supporting actress. The film also won the best young actor, costumes, photography and decor categories.

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