Claude Jutra's name to be pulled from Quebec film awards
Film director Claude Jutra, left, is pictured in Quebec City on Oct. 23, 1984. (Jacques Nadeau/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Donald McKenzie, The Canadian Press
Published Wednesday, February 17, 2016 10:21AM EST
Last Updated Wednesday, February 17, 2016 6:05PM EST
MONTREAL -- Claude Jutra, the late filmmaker who epitomized Canadian cinematic excellence, had his name stripped from Quebec's film awards Wednesday amid allegations he abused a boy for 10 years.
A day after the release of a Jutra biography that said he slept with boys believed to be 14 or 15, Montreal La Presse published a bombshell interview with a man who said Jutra's abuse of him began at age six and included kissing, sexual touching, masturbation and oral sex.
The contents of the article proved too much for Culture Minister Helene David, who made it clear she wanted the group that oversees the province's movie industry to yank Jutra's name from the annual awards that honour the best in Quebec cinema.
Cinema Quebec's verdict came down a few hours later.
"The testimony we read in La Presse was definitely a trigger in our decision," Patrick Roy, head of the organization's board of directors, told a news conference.
"I don't feel like questioning the veracity of the account. It strikes me as very credible and it really shook me."
David called Cinema Quebec's move a "wise decision."
She also requested a list of all the places in Quebec that bear Jutra's name so municipalities can decide whether to keep them as is.
Some jurisdictions didn't wait long before announcing their intention to erase all references to him.
Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre said the city would move to withdraw Jutra's name from a downtown park as well as from a street in an east-end borough.
"In light of what we've seen this morning, I've always said you can't defend the indefensible," Coderre said after the decision by the city's executive committee.
Quebec City and Levis, which is across the St. Lawrence River from the provincial capital, also intend to rename the Claude-Jutra Street in their respective cities.
Later on Wednesday, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, which hands out the Claude Jutra Award for the year's best feature film by a first-time director, announced it was dropping his name.
"In light of recent developments, the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television will rename its Claude Jutra award to the Canadian Screen Award for Best First Feature," Academy chair Martin Katz said in a statement.
That award, which began in 1993, is separate from the Quebec ones.
The controversy surrounding the filmmaker erupted ahead of a Jutra biography released on Tuesday. Author Yves Lever, a longtime cinema critic and professor, said the director "especially liked boys of 14 or 15 and even younger."
The man interviewed by La Presse said Jutra was a friend of his parents when he was a boy.
"He would always bring me presents," he said. "I was happy to see him. I was a kid. I would jump on his back and he would make me roll over. Everyone had the impression it was good fun."
The alleged victim said Jutra would lie beside him in his bed and ask for long hugs before he began touching the boy's genitals.
He said the abuse then heightened over the years and involved masturbation and oral sex.
No new name has yet been set for the next gala, which is scheduled for March 20.
The film director, whose films included "Mon oncle Antoine" and "Kamouraska," committed suicide in 1986 after battling Alzheimer's disease. The film awards have been named after him for nearly 20 years.
-- With files from Pierre Saint-Arnaud in Montreal and Patrice Bergeron in Quebec City