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Actress Godreche calls for reckoning on sexual violence in French film industry

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Actress Judith Godreche received a standing ovation at the Cesar Awards on Friday as she spoke out against sexual violence in the French film industry.

Thriller “Anatomy of a Fall” dominated France’s premier cinematic honours with six trophies, including best film, giving it new momentum ahead of the Oscars, in which it has five nominations.

But the evening’s winners and losers were eclipsed by the speech from Godreche, who took the stage to denounce the “level of impunity, denial and privilege” in the industry.

Godreche, who has become a leading figure in France’s #MeToo movement, has accused directors Benoit Jacquot and Jacques Doillon of sexually assaulting her while she was a teenager. Both deny the allegations.

“Why accept that this art that we love so much, this art that binds us together, is used as a cover for illicit trafficking of young girls?” she said.

“You have to be wary of little girls. They touch the bottom of the pool, they bump into each other, they hurt themselves but they bounce back,” she said.

Justine Triet, who became just the second woman to win the best director Cesar, for “Anatomy of a Fall,” dedicated her award to women who have been hurt.

The thriller about a wife accused of murdering her husband is one of France’s biggest international arthouse hits in recent years.

“I would like to dedicate this Cesar to all women (…) to those who succeed and those who fail, those who have been hurt and who liberate themselves by speaking, and those who do not succeed,” said Triet, who in May became just the third woman filmmaker to win the Palme d’Or.

– ‘Shaking up the habits’ –

Friday’s awards ceremony provided a striking contrast to the 2020 edition, when Roman Polanski won the best director trophy for “An Officer and A Spy”, prompting actress Adele Haenel to storm out in protest.

Polanski is still technically a fugitive from US justice over a child sex conviction in the 1970s

The question of sexual violence was raised from the start in Paris with introductory remarks by actress and director Valerie Lemercier, who presided over the ceremony.

“I will not leave this stage without praising those who are shaking up the habits and customs of a very old world where the bodies of some were implicitly at the disposal of the bodies of others,” she said.

The first award of the night went to Adele Exarchopoulos for best supporting actress in “All Your Faces” in which she plays a victim of incest.

“Oppenheimer” director Christopher Nolan received an honorary Cesar.

Before the ceremony at the Olympia, around a hundred people demonstrated in front of the venue at the call of the CGT union to support victims of sexual violence.

“All together, we can really help things change, a truly better world can open up,” said actress Anna Mouglalis, who has accused directors Doillon and Philippe Garrel of sexually assaulting her.

Before the awards, French culture minister Rachida Dati deplored a “collective blindness” that “lasted for years” in the industry in an interview with the magazine Le Film Francais.

“Creative freedom is total, but here we are not talking about art, we are talking paedocriminality,” regarding Godreche, she said.

Godreche, 51, has claimed Doillon, 79, took advantage of her while directing her in one of his films when she was 15.

She has also accused Jacquot of raping her during a six-year-long relationship that started when she was 14 and he was 25 years her senior.

French cinema has been rocked by allegations it has shrugged off sexism and sexual abuse for decades, and criticism that the arts have too long provided cover for abuse.

Screen legend Gerard Depardieu, 75, has been charged with rape and has been accused of sexual harassment and assault by more than a dozen women. He denies the allegations.

President Emmanuel Macron came under fire for remarks defending the actor, who he said had become the target of a “manhunt”.


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