Animation of Paris Algerian massacre among student Oscars winners

Los Angeles, United States (AFP) — A French animation about the deadly police crackdown on protests by Algerians in 1960s Paris was among the winners Thursday of the Student Academy Awards, held for the first time at Los Angeles’ recently opened film museum.

The short film is the latest effort to spotlight a violent event which was covered up for decades by French authorities, before President Emmanuel Macron condemned it as “inexcusable” last year.

“The Seine’s Tears,” a French animation about the deadly police crackdown on protests by Algerians in 1960s Paris by Yanis Belaid, Eliott Benard and Nicolas Mayeur won the Animation category at the 49th Student Academy Awards (AFP)

“We wanted to make this film to put the light on an event way too unknown in France, even though it is part of our history,” said Yanis Belaid, Eliott Benard and Nicolas Mayeur, the filmmakers of “The Seine’s Tears.”

“We would be glad that it makes people want to discover more about it, and to show our way to see the future without forgetting what happened,” they said, ahead of receiving a bronze prize at the annual ceremony held by the Oscar-awarding Academy on Thursday evening.

Marking the 60th anniversary of the Algerian protests last October, Macron told relatives of victims that “crimes” were committed on the command of notorious Paris police chief Maurice Papon.

He acknowledged that several dozen protesters had been killed, “their bodies thrown into the River Seine,” and paid tribute to their memory.

The precise number of victims has never been made clear and some activists fear several hundred could have been killed.

The 1961 protests were called in the final year of France’s increasingly violent attempt to retain Algeria as a north African colony, and in the middle of a bombing campaign targeting mainland France by pro-independence militants.

Specifically, they were called in response to a strict curfew imposed on Algerians to prevent the underground FLN resistance movement from collecting funds following a spate of deadly attacks on French police officers.

The Student Academy Awards — held in-person for the first time in three years, after previous editions went online due to the pandemic — are a key program of the Hollywood film industry’s top body, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Past student winners have included Spike Lee, “Monsters Inc” and “Up” creator Pete Docter, “Back To The Future” filmmaker Robert Zemeckis and “No Time To Die” director Cary Fukunaga.

Gold awards on Thursday went to films on wide-ranging topics such as space travel (“Almost Home”), lucid dreams (“Against Reality”) and a child kidnapping (“Found”).

On a lighter note, “An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It” won the top prize for animation.

The Oscars are due to take place March 12.