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Days after missing out on the Oscar for best foreign film, Ari Folman's animated documentary "Waltz with Bashir" on Friday won the French equivalent, the Cesar, in the same category. "The only message of the film is to be tolerant, to believe in the other, to believe in love and in peace," director Folman said in his acceptance speech.

Since premiering at last year's Cannes Film Festival, "Waltz" earned great critical and commercial success in France, with over 600,000 tickets sold. In Israel only about 220,000 people have seen the film at cinemas.

Folman told Haaretz yesterday that reports of an attempt to steal the award statuette at a party after the ceremony were false. Israel Radio and various Internet sites reported yesterday that Folman fought off would-be robbers and fled a Paris nightclub with the statuette.

"Waltz with Bashir" is the first Israeli film to win a Cesar. In 2006 "Walk on Water" by Eytan Fox and Gal Uchovsky was nominated for the award but did not win.

"Waltz" also won the Golden Globe award for best foreign film and an award from the Broadcast Film Critics Association earlier this year, as well as winning numerous awards in international film festivals. Competing against "Waltz" for the Cesar were Sean Penn's "Into the Wild," Paul Thomas Anderson's "There Will Be Blood," Matteo Garrone's "Gomorra," Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne's "Lorna's Silence," James Gray's "Two Lovers" and Bouli Lanners' "Eldorado."

The big winner of the evening was Martin Provost's "Seraphine," which won seven prizes including best film, best actress for Yolande Moreau in the title role, and best screenplay.