French stars say ‘Time’s Up,’ seek equality at film awards

PARIS — The French film world may be having its #MeToo moment.

One after another, stars showed up at the industry’s top awards show Friday wearing a white ribbon in a protest against sexual misconduct. Throughout the Cesar Awards ceremony, presenters referenced the movement that has campaigned for an end to abuses by powerful men.

And the packed concert hall stood in ovation as the presenter called on everyone to support the #MaintenantOnAgit (Now We Act) campaign launched this week and efforts to help women pursue legal complaints against abusers.

Anger over sexual violence and demands for gender equality in the cinema industry charged the atmosphere around this year’s Cesars — much like around the Oscars coming Sunday.

Instead of wearing black — as actors in the U.S. and Britain have done at recent awards shows — French stars chose to wear a white ribbon to make their statement.

A call on the website of the Foundation of Women, collaborating with the white-ribbon movement, says that “‘We submitted,’ ‘We endured,’ ‘We kept silent.’”

More than 100 personalities, including actress Sandrine Bonnaire, director Agnes Jaoui and actor-director Julie Gayet asked for donations via the foundation. The funds are destined for associations helping women pursue cases before justice, “so that no woman ever again has to say #MeToo.”

French film stars including Juliet Binoche called in a proposal in Le Monde’s Friday edition for quotas to guarantee that more government film subsidies go to movies directed by women.

Some have criticized the quota idea as counterproductive, however.

France’s entertainment industry has seen divisions over the #MeToo movement that started in Hollywood with sexual abuse accusations against producer Harvey Weinstein, with Catherine Deneuve notably saying it had gone too far.

No one at the Cesars publicly said anything similar.

The ceremony’s president Vanessa Paradis — singer and actress and Johnny Depp’s ex-wife — set the tone by opening the show saying: “I am wearing this white ribbon for the fight against violence against women.”

The ceremony was dedicated to Jeanne Moreau, the smoky-voiced femme fatale of the French New Wave who died last year, known for her distinctive blend of sensuality, intellect and resolve.

And the honorary career Cesar is going to Penelope Cruz.

In addition to a white ribbon, actor Blanche Gardin wore a pin with the picture of comedian Louis C.K., accused of sexual harassment, and earned laughter with an ironic plea:

“Producers no longer have the right to rape actresses . But do we still have the right to sleep with them to get roles?” she asked. “Because if we don’t, then we have to learn our lines, pass auditions, and we don’t have the time. You realize how much time that takes?”

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