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French actresses denounce abuse by directors when they were teenagers in new #MeToo step

                                Women protest with a banner reading “Polanski: Cesar for the Best Raper 2020” near the venue of the Cesar awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscar, on Feb. 28, 2020 in Paris.
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Women protest with a banner reading “Polanski: Cesar for the Best Raper 2020” near the venue of the Cesar awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscar, on Feb. 28, 2020 in Paris.

PARIS >> As French cinema basks in Oscars Academy Awards attention, actresses who allege they were teenage victims of sexual and physical abuse by directors decades older than them are shining the light on the repulsive underside of the country’s industry.

The latest step in the #MeToo movement could come at the French cinema awards on Friday.

French media are reporting that Judith Godrèche is to make a speech on sexual violence at the Cesar Awards ceremony, France’s version of the Oscars, which is broadcast live on television.

Godrèche already sent a powerful message to the public through recent interviews in which she denounced an “omerta” in the industry.

It comes as French cinema is expected to shine next month at the Oscars ceremony with Justine Triet ‘s courtroom drama ” Anatomy of a Fall.”

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

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

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

Both Jacquot and Doillon have denied the allegations.

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

“I was indoctrinated, it was as if I’d joined a cult,” she said. The relationship was marred by violence, confinement and control, she said.

Godrèche had previously spoken about her relationship with Jacquot, without naming him, in an autobiographical TV show called “Icon of French Cinema” that was released in December.

She was among the actresses who spoke out in 2017 against U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein amid the #MeToo movement, accusing him of sexual assault when she was 24.

Jacquot told Le Monde newspaper that he “doesn’t feel directly concerned” by Godrèche’s accusations, with whom he said he fell in love at the time. He denied any abuse of authority.

In a statement to international news agency Agence France-Presse, Doillon said “the just cause doesn’t justify arbitrary denunciations, false accusations and lies.”

Following Godrèche’s accusations, other actresses decided to speak out.

Isild Le Besco, 41, accused Jacquot of “psychological and physical violence” in a relationship with him that began when she was 16 and he was 52. She also accused Doillon of having picked someone else for a role she was supposed to get because she refused his sexual advances.

Another actress, Anna Mouglalis, 45, accused Doillon of sexual assault in 2011.

The French film industry earlier was shaken by sexual misconduct accusations against actor Gérard Depardieu.

In 2020, protests by women’s rights activists were staged during the Cesar Awards ceremony as director Roman Polanski won, in absentia, the best director award. Actress Adèle Haenel, who denounced alleged sexual assault by another French director in the early 2000s when she was 15, got up and walked out of the room.

Polanski is still wanted in the United States decades after he was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

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