1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Sexual violence in French cinema called out at Cesar Awards

February 24, 2024

Actress Judith Godreche, a leading figure in France's #MeToo movement, received a standing ovation at the Cesar Awards after calling for the French film industry to "face the truth" about sexual violence.

Judith Godreche on stage at the Cesar Film Awards
Judith Godreche says she was abused by two directors when she was a teenagerImage: Aurore Marechal/ABACAPRESS/picture alliance/abaca

At the Cesar Awards in Paris on Friday, French actress Judith Godreche denounced the French film industry's "level of impunity, denial and privilege" in dealing with allegations of rampant sexual abuse. 

A leading figure in France's #MeToo movement, Godreche had been invited to speak at France's version of the Oscars, after actresses alleged they were teenage victims of sexual abuse by directors. 

Godreche has accused directors Benoit Jacquot and Jacques Doillon of sexually assaulting her while she was a teenager. 

"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. "We can decide that men accused of rape no longer rule the [French] cinema."

"Is it possible that we are able to face the truth?" the actress questioned.

"With the same moral strength that we use to be creative, let's have the courage to say out loud what we know quietly," she said. 

A #MeToo moment for French cinema  

Hours before the award ceremony commenced, France's culture minister Rachida Dati deplored French cinema for  "collectively turning a blind eye for decades" to sexual violence, and hailed Godreche's courage for speaking out. 

"This should be the beginning of profound soul searching for French cinema," Dati said in an interview with  the French flim magazine "Le Film Francais."

The audience stands up and claps at the Cesar Awards
Godreche received a standing ovation following her speech Image: Michel Euler/AP/picture alliance

Actress and director Valerie Lemercier, who presided over the ceremony, raised the issue in her opening remarks.

"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.

Justine Triet, who became just the second woman to win the best director in the award's 49-year-old history, dedicated her win to women who have been abused. 

Outside the ceremony's venue, protestors led demonstrations at the call of the national labor union to support victims of sexual violence. 

Recent sex abuse allegations

Godreche, 51, recently accused Jacquot — 25 years her senior — of raping and abusing her during a six-year-long relationship that started when she was 14. She said the relationship was marred by violence, confinement and control as if she had "joined a cult." 

Godreche, 51, has claimed that Doillon, 79, sexually assaulted her when she was a 15 year old actress in a film he directed. 

Earlier this month, she filed a formal complaint with prosecutors. Both the directors have denied the allegations.

mk/wmr (AP, AFP)