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Actor calls on French film industry to face sexual abuse, during live Cesar Awards ceremony

FILE - Actress Judith Godreche poses for photographers at the photo call for the film 'The Climb' at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 17, 2019. As French cinema basks in Oscar attention, actresses who allege they were teenage victims of sexual abuse by directors decades older than them are shining the light on the repulsive underside of French cinema. Another step in the #MeToo movement that's been gathering pace in the industry could come at the French cinema awards on Friday Feb. 23 2024. French newspapers Le Parisien and Liberation report that Godrèche is to make a speech on sexual violence in the cinema industry at the Cesar Awards' ceremony, the French version of the Oscars. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File) FILE - Actress Judith Godreche poses for photographers at the photo call for the film 'The Climb' at the 72nd international film festival, Cannes, southern France, Friday, May 17, 2019. As French cinema basks in Oscar attention, actresses who allege they were teenage victims of sexual abuse by directors decades older than them are shining the light on the repulsive underside of French cinema. Another step in the #MeToo movement that's been gathering pace in the industry could come at the French cinema awards on Friday Feb. 23 2024. French newspapers Le Parisien and Liberation report that Godrèche is to make a speech on sexual violence in the cinema industry at the Cesar Awards' ceremony, the French version of the Oscars. (AP Photo/Petros Giannakouris, File)
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PARIS -

French actor Judith Godreche called on France's film industry to "face the truth" on sexual violence and physical abuse during a live broadcast Friday of the Cesar Awards ceremony, France's version of the Oscars.

"We can decide that men accused of rape no longer rule the (French) cinema," Godreche said.

Godreche was invited to speak on sexual violence at the ceremony after actors alleged they were teenage victims of sexual abuse by directors decades older than themselves, shining a light on the repulsive underside of the country's industry.

"Is it possible that we are able to face the truth?" Godreche said during an emotional speech to a hushed audience. "Let's have the courage to say out loud what everyone is thinking," she said, and added later, "The power seems to be swaying."

The audience stayed silent until the end of her appearance, but then erupted into thunderous applause in a standing ovation.

Her speech comes as French cinema is expected to shine next month at the Oscars ceremony with Justine Triet 's courtroom drama " Anatomy of a Fall."

Godreche, 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 Benoit Jacquot, with whom she had a six-year relationship that 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, Godreche said that she was never attracted to Jacquot, "but I ended up with him, in his bed, and I was his child wife." Godreche 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.

Hours before the ceremony, French cultural minister Rachida Dati criticized the country's cinema for "collectively turning a blind eye for decades" to sexual violence. She hailed Godreche's courage to speak out and for sharing her traumatic experience.

Judith Godreche has spoken of her pain in simple terms, Dati said. "She said, I was a child. You saw everything and no one said anything," the cultural minister said in an interview with The French Film magazine. She added: "This should be the beginning of profound soul searching for French cinema."

"There is no impunity in the name of art," Dati said. "Creative freedom is total, but we are not talking about art here, but about a crime against a child," she added. "Having a sexual relationship with a child under 15, is a crime."

Godreche had previously spoken about her relationship with Jacquot, without naming him, in an autobiographical television show called "Icon of French Cinema" that was released in December.

She was among the actors 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 the Le Monde newspaper that he "doesn't feel directly concerned" by Godreche'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 Godreche's accusations, other women 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 actor, Anna Mouglalis, 45, accused Doillon of sexual assault in 2011.

The French film industry earlier was shaken by sexual misconduct accusations against actor Gerard 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. Actor Adele 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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