UPDATE, 4:50 PM PT: At nearly four hours, tonight’s César Awards ceremony was one of the longest I can remember, but oddly also one of the most entertaining. Host Edouard Baer kept things moving for the Canal Plus broadcast even if he started to sweat as things started to draw out. Nevertheless, the Césars are often full of surprises and this show was no different. Leading nominee Saint Laurent left with only one prize out of 10 while Oscar nominated Timbuktu swept seven of the eight categories in which it had a stake. Those included Best Film and Best Director for Abderrahmane Sissako who opted to stay in France tonight and miss tomorrow’s Foreign Film Symposium that Mark Johnson is holding with Oscar nominated directors in LA. Timbuktu is the first film submitted to the Oscars from Mauritania, but it’s also a French co-production which explains a lot of the love here tonight.

But there was also an American twist to the proceedings this evening as Kristen Stewart became the first American actress to win a César. She already had the distinction of being the first ever nominated as Best Supporting Actress. (Mezzo-soprano Julia Migenes was the only other U.S. actress ever nominated for a César – in her case for lead in 1984’s Carmen.) Stewart pulled off tonight’s win for Olivier Assayas’ Cannes pic Clouds Of Sils Maria starring Juliette Binoche whose assistant Stewart plays in the film.

Also making an appearance this evening was Sean Penn who was given an Honorary César. An emotional Marion Cotillard presented the actor/director with the trophy after he received a several-minute standing ovation inside Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet. He spoke of his affinity for French film, saying, “We’re jaded about what we do back home,” but whenever he comes to France, the cinema is a sort of “ray of sunshine.”

Among other wins for the French equivalent of the Oscar tonight was Adèle Haenel as Best Actress for Thomas Cailley’s Cannes Directors’ Fortnight title Les Combattants which also scored Best Male Newcomer for Kevin Azaïs and Best Debut Feature. Box office smash La Famille Bélier took the Best Female Newcomer prize for Louane Emera. The Eric Lartigau-directed feelgood picture about an aspiring singer whose parents are deaf, had six nominations and has sold over 6M tickets since December 17. In the Foreign Film race, Xavier Dolan’s Canadian pic Mommy was the victor. That film shared the Cannes Jury Prize last May. Via a written message, the wunderkind director sent a special note to Cannes fest chief Thierry Frémaux thanking him for his confidence.

All winners are listed below:

Best Film
Timbuktu, dir: Abderrahmane Sissako

Best Actress
Adèle Haenel, Les Combattants

Best Adapted Screenplay
Cyril Gely, Volker Schlöndorff – Diplomatie

Best Actor
Pierre Niney, Yves Saint Laurent

Best Foreign Film
Mommy, dir Xavier Dolan

Best Director
Abderrahmane Sissako, Timbuktu

Best Supporting Actress
Kristen Stewart, Clouds Of Sils Maria

Best Short Film
La Femme De Rio, dirs: Emma Luchini, Nicolas Rey

Best Documentary
Salt Of The Earth, dirs: Wim Wenders, Juliano Ribeiro Salgado

Best Editing
Nadia Ben Rachid, Timbuktu

Best Set Design
Thierry Flamand, La Belle Et La Bête

Best Original Screenplay
Abderrahmane Sissako, Kessen Tall – Timbuktu

Best Costumes
Anaïs Romand, Saint-Laurent

Best Newcomer (Male)
Kevin Azaïs, Les Combattants

Best Animated Film
Minuscule – La Vallée Des Fourmis Perdues, dirs: Thomas Szabo and Hélène Giraud

Best Animated Short
Les Petits Cailloux, dir: Chloé Mazlo

Best Score
Amine Bouhafa, Timbuktu

Best Supporting Actor
Reda Kateb, Hippocrate

Best Debut Feature
Les Combattants, dir: Thomas Cailley, prod: Pierre Guyard

Best Cinematography
Sofian El Fani, Timbuktu

Best Sound
Philippe Welsh, Roman Dymny, Thierry Delor – Timbuktu

Best Newcomer (Female)
Louane Emera, La Famille Bélier