France’s César film awards ban sex offense suspects from attending



The César Awards — France’s version of the Oscars — have banned from this year’s ceremony any nominees who are under investigation in connection with sex offenses.

In a statement released Monday, the César Academy said any nominee who is being investigated over or has been convicted of “acts of violence, in particular of a sexual or sexist nature” will not be invited to the ceremony or associated events during next month’s awards. The decision, it said, was made “out of respect for victims” and potential victims.

The ban comes several months after police launched an investigation into an erstwhile contender for this year’s awards, Sofiane Bennacer, over allegations of rape and violence against former partners — accusations he denies. The César Academy had already removed Bennacer from its long list of nominations in November after the police investigation but said in its statement Monday that current rules did not directly deal with nominees who were facing a legal investigation.

The latest move is a departure from 2020, when director Roman Polanskiwho pleaded guilty to statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in the United States in 1977 but fled before he could be sentenced — received 12 César nominations for his film “An Officer and a Spy” and won an award for best director, angering #MeToo campaigners. Polanski also has faced other accusations of sexual assault. The César Academy’s then-president said at the time that he rejected the idea of taking “moral positions.”

This year’s change does not appear to prevent such nominees from being awarded Césars — the most coveted prize in French cinema. However, the decision, in addition to barring them from the awards ceremony and all associated events, would prevent them from asking others to give speeches on their behalf.

The body added in its statement that the ban was a temporary measure introduced for next month’s ceremony and that more-comprehensive measures, including the eligibility to be awarded the César, would be discussed by a working group in early 2023 and put to a vote.

Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, the director of the 2022 film “Forever Young,” in which Bennacer appeared, previously rejected the accusations against him as a “media lynching.”

But the French feminist organization Osez le féminisme (Dare to be feminist) praised the Césars’ decision and thanked the women in France’s film industry it said had “broken the silence.”

“This victory is only possible thanks to your courage. To celebrate a rapist is to minimize sexual and sexist violence and to contribute to #RapeCulture,” the group tweeted in response to the academy’s decision.

There had been fears that this year’s ceremony could be met with protests after the allegations against Bennacer were made public, according to Agence France-Presse.

The #MeToo movement took off in France in 2017, becoming known by the hashtag #Bal­anceTonPorc (loosely translated as “squeal on your pig.”)

However, it faced a mixed response, with several high-profile actresses and celebrities voicing criticism of the campaign. In 2018, a group of 100 women — including the actress Catherine Deneuve — wrote an open letter, published by Le Monde, saying that while rape is a crime, “insistent or clumsy flirting is not a crime, nor gallantry a chauvinist attack.”

The government criminalized catcalls and other forms of street harassment in response to the campaign, and a significant moment for French cinema came in 2019 when the actress Adèle Haenel accused the director of her first film of sexually harassing her when she was a child.

The following year, the woman behind the #Bal­anceTonPorc hashtag was ordered to pay 20,000 euros (around $21,000) in damages and legal fees to the man she had accused of sexual harassment.

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