France’s César movie awards take stand against sexual crimes

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PARIS (AP) — Movie stars and other film industry workers convicted of or facing possible prison time for sexual or sexist violence are being banned from France’s top movie award ceremony “out of respect for the victims.”

The handing out of the César awards — the French equivalent of the Oscars and scheduled this year for Feb. 24 in Paris — is a glittering annual highlight of the movie industry calendar in France.

But the Césars have also faced scrutiny — like other sections of the global movie industry — in the wake of the #MeToo social movement against sexual violence.

Women’s rights activists protested outside the 2020 ceremony where director Roman Polanski won an award. Actress Adele Haenel, who alleged sexual assault by another French director in the early 2000s when she was 15, got up and walked out of the room, followed by a few others, when Polanski was named best director for “An Officer and a Spy.”

Polanski didn’t attend the ceremony, calling it a “public lynching.” He is still wanted in the United States, decades after he was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor but fled the country on the eve of sentencing.

The board that oversees the Césars has in recent months been considering possible rules to cover potential nominees who are suspected of crimes. That work continues. The board in November also removed actor Sofiane Bennacer from possible consideration for a newcomers’ award this year after French media reported that he is under investigation for alleged rapes.

In the meantime, the board has laid out regulations for this year’s ceremony, announcing this week that “out of respect for the victims” it has “decided to not shine a light on people accused by judicial authorities of violent acts.”

Potential nominees won’t be invited to this year’s awards ceremony if they’re under investigation for violence punishable with a prison sentence, notably sexual or sexist violence, the board said.

The same will also apply to people already convicted of such acts, the board said.

Other people would also not be allowed to speak on their behalf if they win an award, it said.

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