The Cesar Awards, also referred to as the French Oscars and France’s most prestigious film awards, have announced that they are barring anyone being investigated on allegations of sexual misconduct from the ceremony next month.
One of the initial sparks to this decision was Roman Polanski’s 2020 Cesar Awards win for best director, despite being convicted of raping a child in the 1970s. This particular event led to major backlash and internal reorganization within the Cesar Academy.
There were also fears of protests during this year’s ceremony, on February 25th, due to rising star Sofiane Bennacer’s frontrunner status for his part in Les Amandiers (Forever Young), which is about a promiscuous group of drama students in the 1980s.
Bennacer was being investigated by police on two allegations of rape and one of violence. When fresh allegations against Bennacer were made public in November, he was dropped from the list of potential nominees.
In a statement made to the public, as reported by The Guardian, the Cesar Academy stated anyone facing a “potential prison sentence for violence, notably of a sexual or sexist nature,” would be excluded from the ceremony
“It has been decided not to highlight people who may have been put in question by the judiciary for acts of violence. The step is being taken out of respect for the victims, even if they are only presumed victims.”
Valeria Bruni-Terdeschi, the director of Les Amandiers, spoke out against the allegations and decision to remove Bennacer from the longlist of possible nominees for this year’s awards.
She took to Instagram to call the allegations a “media lynching,” and that her and the film’s producers were aware of the allegations against him during the casting process for Les Amandiers: “but I told them these rumors would not stop me and I couldn’t envision making the film without him.”
Singer and former French first lady Carla Bruni, sister of Valeria, also spoke in defense of Bennacer, stating that the decision to remove him from the awards was “undermining the presumption of innocence, one of the foundations of our democracy.
The Cesar Academy also stated that they are still debating whether or not to ban people with sexual misconduct allegations and convictions entirely from future nominations and awards. The Academy will be reaching a decision regarding this within the coming weeks.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at email@example.com.