Actor Judith Godrèche calls on French film industry to face sexual abuse, during Cesar Awards


French actor Judith Godreche called on France's film industry to “face the truth” on sexual violence and physical abuse during Friday's live broadcast of the Cesar Awards ceremony, France's version of the Oscars.

“We can decide that men accused of rape will no longer rule (French) cinema,” Godreche said.

Godreche was invited to speak at the event on sexual violence after actors alleged they were teenagers sexually abused by directors decades older than them, shining a light on the sordid underbelly of the country's industry.

“Is it possible that we are able to face the truth?” Godreche said during an emotional speech before a silent audience.

“With the same moral power that we use to be creative, let us have the courage to say out loud what we know silently,” he said, adding later, “The power seems to flow.”

The audience remained silent until the end of his appearance, but then erupted into a standing ovation.

His speech comes as French cinema is expected to shine at next month's Oscars ceremony with Justin Triot's courtroom drama “Anatomy of a Fall.”

Triet on Friday became the second female film director in the 49-year history of the Cesar Awards to win best director for “Anatomy of a Fall,” which took home best picture, original screenplay, actress, supporting actor and editing for Sandra Huller. Also won the award.

Godreche, 51, is well known among French cinephiles. She recently accused two film directors of rape and sexual abuse when she was a teenager. He formally filed a complaint earlier this month, the Paris prosecutor said.

She is accusing film director Benoit Jacquot of rape and physical abuse, with whom she had a six-year relationship, which began when she was 14. Jacquot, a prominent French director, is 25 years her senior.

She is also accusing another film director, Jacques Doillon, of sexually assaulting her when he was directing a film when she was 15. Doillon is 28 years older than him.

Both Jacquot and Doillon have denied the allegations.

Speaking on France Inter radio earlier this month, Godreche said she was never attracted to Jacquot, “but I was with him in his bed, and I was his child wife.” Godreche and Jacquot met on the set of their film “The Beggars” in 1986.

“I was given an education, it felt like I had joined a cult,” she said. The relationship, he said, was marred by violence, imprisonment and control.

Hours before the ceremony, French Culture Minister Rachida Daati criticized the country's cinema for having “turned a collective blind eye for decades” to sexual violence. He commended Godreche's courage in speaking out and sharing his traumatic experience.

Daati said, Judith Godreche has expressed her pain in simple words. “She said, I was a child. You saw everything and no one said anything,” the cultural minister said in an interview with The French Film magazine. He said: “This should be the beginning of a deep soul-searching for French cinema.”

“There is no impunity in the name of art,” Daati said. He said, “Creative freedom is absolute, but we are not talking about art here, but about a crime against a child.” “It is a crime to have sex with a child under the age of 15.”

Godreche had previously talked about her relationship with Jacquot without naming him in an autobiographical television show titled “Icons of French Cinema”, released in December.

She was among the actors who spoke out against American film producer Harvey Weinstein amid the #MeToo movement in 2017, accusing him of sexual harassment when she was 24.

Jacquot told Le Monde newspaper that he was “not directly concerned” by Godreche's allegations, with whom he said he was in love at the time. He denied any abuse of authority.

In a statement to international news agency Agence France-Presse, Doillon said, “Just cause does not justify arbitrary condemnations, false accusations and lies.”

Following Godreche's allegations, other women decided to speak out.

Isilde Le Besco, 41, accused Jacquot of “psychological and physical violence” in their relationship, which began when she was 16 and he was 52. She also accused Doillon of choosing someone else for the role that should have gone to her because she refused his sexual advances.

Another actor, Anna Mouglis, 45, accused Doillon of sexual harassment in 2011.

The French film industry was previously rocked by sexual misconduct allegations against actor Gerard Depardieu.

In 2020, protests were held by women's rights activists during the César Awards ceremony as director Roman Polanski won the Best Director award in his absence. Actress Adèle Haenel, who had denounced alleged sexual harassment by another French director when she was 15 in the early 2000s, stood up and left the room.

Polanski is still wanted in the United States, decades after being accused of raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

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