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‘Timbuktu,’ film on Mali jihad, wins big in France

The film, about northern Mali under jihadist rule, won seven awards including Best Film at France's equivalent of the Oscars

Published: Updated:

"Timbuktu", about northern Mali under jihadist rule, won seven Cesar awards including Best Film at France's equivalent of the Oscars on Friday.

Directed by Mauritania's Abderrahmane Sissako, the film is also in line for an Oscar, having been nominated in the Best Foreign Film category for Sunday's Academy Awards.

Sissako, who also won a Cesar for Best Director among the film's haul of awards, said he wanted to show the residents of the ancient city struggling to maintain their daily lives in the face of the brutal rule of jihadists who seized a large portion of Mail's vast desert in 2012.

Most of the film had to be made in Sissako's native Mauritania as northern Mali, despite being freed from jihadist control by a French military intervention, remains an extremely dangerous place, especially for foreigners.

In his acceptance speech, Sissako -- who became the first black African to win the best director Cesar -- praised French people for taking to the streets in their millions after the Islamist attacks in Paris last month that left 17 dead.

"France is a magnificent country because it is able to stand up to the horror and to the violence," he said.

"There is no clash of civilizations. There is a meeting of civilizations," he added.