the controversies of the Cesar ceremony

In recent years, the Académie des César has been the subject of much criticism after appointing artists accused, among other things, of rape or sexual violence. Summary of various controversies.

The Academy of Caesar save his skin. In turmoil following the Sofiane Bennacer affair, the institution of French cinema decided Monday, January 2 to withdraw, for its next ceremony, the people implicated “for acts of violence”. Thus, from now on, if one of the named is indicted or sentenced for acts of violence (particularly of a sexual or sexist nature), he may not be invited to the prize-giving ceremony, nor to any of the events associated with it. The academy, however, remains opaque on the award ceremonies, but a priori an accused – although absent – ​​could still be rewarded.

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The recent announcement of the Academy is in any case a first step to break with the controversies that have punctuated the last editions. Because when it comes to embarrassing controversies, we must give back to the Caesars what belongs to the Caesars. The ceremonies that have taken place since 1976 have not always been smooth sailing. We take stock.

1986: the kiss of the Gainsbourgs

Moment of embarrassment during the 1986 ceremony, at the announcement of the César for best female hope. On screen, Serge Gainsbourg, cigarette in hand, kisses his daughter Charlotte mouthful, rewarded for her role in the cheeky. An evening that Jane Birkin, who we see kissing her 15-year-old daughter so briefly, mentioned in volume 2 of her diary, Post Scriptum , where she described a Gainsbourg “farted like a quince” even before the start of the ceremony. Charlotte Gainsbourg talks about this period of her life in the magazine M as something “hard for a child to live through”. “He made me go too far, do things that bothered me,” she adds. It’s a safe bet that such a scene today would cause a stir.

1994: Luchini and his “huge” stubbornness

Fabrice Luchini was in charge, this year of 1994, of presenting the César for Best Film alongside the actress Clémentine Célarié. The latter had arrived on stage in a dress close to the body, with a basket neckline. An outfit that had caused a somewhat long sequence, during which the actor stared insistently at the actress’ chest, licking his lips and touching her arms, after graciously commenting “It’s huge”. A moment of hilarity for the public at the time, which we watch today with gnashing of teeth.

2017: Polanski president of the Césars

Considered a fugitive in the United States since 1977 following a case of rape of a minor, and accused by eleven other women of sexual abuse, the director had been chosen to chair the 42e Caesar ceremony. While he had already been twice rewarded by the Academy (in 1980 and 2003), his appointment had caused an uproar. A petition had been launched for his withdrawal, signed more than 60,000 times. Laurence Rossignol, then Minister for Women’s Rights, had even denounced “an indifference with regard to the facts of which he is accused” and “a kind of banality with regard to rape”. A general indignation which had ended up convincing the director to give up the post.

2020: Polanski’s coronation, “we get up and we break”

While in 2019, photographer Valentine Monnier testified in turn against Roman Polanski, the Franco-Polish filmmaker had canceled his visit to the Césars. But despite the controversy, the 45e ceremony, which was held on February 28, 2020, saw him rewarded with the prize for Best Director for his film I accuse. This coronation had pushed the actress Adele Haenel to leave the room chanting “shame!”. Céline Sciamma, Noémie Merlant, Aïssa Maïga and others followed suit, while the mistress of ceremonies, Florence Foresti, did not return to the stage after the announcement of the result. Meanwhile, anger rumbled outside the Salle Pleyel in the ranks of feminist activists gathered for the occasion. A moment erected as “the most beautiful image, in forty-five years of ceremony” by the author Virginie Despentes, transforming this sequence into a mantra, in its tribune for Liberation: “From now on we get up and break”.

In video, Feminist activists demonstrate on the sidelines of the César 2020

2020: Brisseau “forgotten” from the tribute to the dead

During this same ceremony of February 28, 2020, the Academy had broadcast the traditional retrospective of tribute to the men and women of cinema who died during the last twelve months. Jean-Claude Brisseau, director of white wedding and secret things, sentenced to one year in prison for sexual harassment in 2005 and died in March 2019, had been ousted. A decision that had angered his partner, Lisa Hérédia, who had qualified this “stab, spit, second death” omission.

2023: an edition that still raises questions

After two seemingly calmer ceremonies following the Covid-19 crisis – simply punctuated by a shocking appearance by Corinne Masiero, naked on stage in 2021 to defend the condition of intermittent workers – the institution of French cinema is once again in its small shoes. The revelations of November 23 on the indictment of Sofiane Bennacer for “rape” and “violence on spouse” had the effect of a bomb. The charges against the main actor of almond trees by Valeria Bruni Tedeschi had led to his rapid ouster from the list of 2023 male revelations.

The new shelving policy, unveiled on January 2 and echoing the case, remains very moderate, however. Those implicated “for acts of violence” can always receive a prize, like Gérard Depardieu. The actor, indicted since December 2020 for rape and sexual harassment, could be nominated for his film Maigret. If he were to be rewarded, he would simply be deprived of stage presence and speech.