New Wave of Accusations Ignites MeToo Reckoning in France: ‘Women Are Fed Up. The Anger Is Enormous’

New Wave of Accusations Ignites MeToo Reckoning in France: ‘Women Are Fed Up. The Anger Is Enormous’

France’s film industry is undergoing a new MeToo reckoning, dominating news cycles, policy debates and even the goodie bag of the Cesar Awards’ nominees dinner, which included a flyer headlined, “The cultural sector together against sexist and sexual violence.”

The French #MeToo movement also made its way into the Berlinale, where actor Nora Hamzawi said that director Jacques Doillon’s upcoming film “Third Grade” — in which Hamzawi stars — shouldn’t be released due to the sexual misconduct allegations recently filed against the filmmkaker.

France’s major producers guilds (API, SPI and UPC) have also issued a statement demanding the National Film Board (CNC) and the Minister of Culture to put specific guidelines in place. Those demands include the appointment of “experts specialized in the prevention and management of sexual violence to set up a safe environment at the start of every shoot;” additional resources for organizations fighting sexual misconduct; and setting up an insurance policy that would allow productions to immediately halt when a situation of sexual violence arises.

The subject will likely be prominent at Friday’s Cesar Awards ceremony, where Judith Godrèche — the actor who has charged this new MeToo reckoning with her revelations that she had been preyed upon and groomed as a minor by directors Benoît Jacquot and Jacques Doillon — is expected to make a speech.

Godrèche’s allegations are among several new sexual assault complaints filed in recent weeks. The new reckoning really kicked off in early December with the airing of an investigative documentary showing Gerard Depardieu making derogatory and sexualized comments about a pre-adolescent girl.

Since then, Anna Mouglalis, Isild le Besco, Vahina Giocante, and Julia Roy have stepped forward with new allegations against Doillon and Jacquot, while Godrèche herself has pushed the reckoning further by pressing charges against the two directors. She has also launched a social media campaign encouraging even more victims to speak up. Besides Doillon and Jacquot, a third director who is also in his 70s, Philippe Garrel, has also been accused of sexual assault by five actresses who spoke to Mediapart in September.

“I am here,” Godrèche posted on Instagram on February 10, asking readers to submit their own stories to the email address“”). “Behind this account, [I am] ready to read and reflect on a project in your honor. However were you abused, please share as soon as possible.”

The post has received more than 10,000 likes over the past week.

“Women are really fed up,” says author and critic Hélène Frappat. “The intensity of this response displays the full extent of this pent up anger that up until now had not been measured – and clearly that anger is enormous.”

Three days after Godrèche’s Instagram outreach, Frappat published an Op-Ed in Le Monde situating this climate of predation within a wider, retrograde pathology. “This worldview is built on a scam,” wrote Frappat. “A scam for women, not the for these so-called great creators who defend themselves by explaining that in France of the Nouvelle Vague a director must sleep with his muse in order to find inspiration. [In other words] our romantic vision is built on harassment.” 

“I think many of these directors sincerely believe that such harassment, which can lead all the way to sexual assault, are products of [a romantic instinct],” she tells Variety.  “And that in turn, they feel their victims should be happy for such attention…Only we shouldn’t fall into the trap of isolating cinema, because cinema is a just a blown-up image of society – and this issue affects our society on every level.”

As Frappat’s op-ed and Godrèche’s online initiative continue to spark debate across French culture and media, organizations like Collective 50/50 now lead the charge in reshaping the audiovisual sector. Founded in 2018 under the moniker 50/50 For 2020, the activist organization has since rebranded with a wider and more ambitious goal in mind.

Collective 50/50’s 2023 Conference For Equality, Parity and Diversity in Cinema.
Laurie Bisceglia

“When the collective was created, we didn’t think it would still exist in 2024,” says 50/50 general secretary Laura Pertuy. “We were perhaps too optimistic, thinking and hoping that it would dissolve very quickly. But we now see that there’s a colossal amount of progress to be made.”

Instead, the collective has assumed a wider and intersectional point of view, encouraging parity in film festival selections by fighting for a healthier sector. The fight amounts to a full-scale rethinking of traditionally held mores – including the impunity conferred upon selected auteurs.

“We’ve created a terrible system, one we’re now struggling to dismantle,” says Pertuy. “A system that views those who create as all-powerful beings, unable to be questioned. That system encouraged a habit of not speaking up, of not being heard [because] those at the top needed to be listened to and admired at all costs.”

“There’s this old, imaginary world around [actors like] Depardieu and certain directors,” Pertuy continues. “One gets the impression that it’s more painful to separate oneself from this imaginary world than to hear the complaints, the pain or even the anger of women who have been sexually assaulted. There’s a kind of blame reversal at work, which is a bit strange.”

Because the film industry adheres to the same norms that govern modern life, it should come as no surprise that conferring absolute power and absolute deference on a select few can have an absolutely corrosive effect. With that in mind, Pertuy’s organization has lobbied France’s National Film Board (CNC) to mandate obligatory harassment prevention seminars for full casts and crews ahead of each shoot.

“This obligation, the fact of uniting and thinking about the shoot together, creates a certain atmosphere that helps deconstruct the concept of the director-king and the pyramidal organization built around them,” says Pertuy. “In fact, addressing the full crew on the same level can significantly reduce violence on set.”

At the same time, the CNC’s work with 50/50 reflects a paradox of the current fight against harassment and the extent of the challenge ahead. 50/50’s previous board resigned en masse following a sexual assault complaint and scandal in 2022, while CNC president Dominique Boutonnat still has open sexual assault charges against him. In December, President Emmanuel Macron defended Depardieu in a TV interview, saying the actor “made France proud,” while the media pushback against directors Jacques Doillon and Benoit Jacquot has not yet impeded the filmmakers’ upcoming work.

Doillon’s latest feature, “Third Grade,” has won the acclaim of First Lady Brigitte Macron and is confirmed for release in France next month, while Jacquot’s Georges Simenon adaptation “Belle” – which stars Charlotte Gainsbourg and Guillaume Canet – is finishing post-production and was recently up for sale at Berlin’s EFM. A source close to the market tells Variety that Jacquot’s film has already sold to more than a dozen territories, while the filmmaker’s scandal-tarnished image has not traveled as far beyond France’s borders.

All that goes to show that the outrage newly voiced across the French industry is the beginning of a process, not the end of a chapter.

“In the face of such systemic violence, we must question the status quo that views certain actors and directors as kings,” says Pertuy. “We have a clear obligation to stand up and speak out, to say we will no longer be attacked, we are no longer invisible, and we don’t want to hide. That’s where the revolution lies.”      

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