Entire César board resigns following backlash

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French producer Alain Terzian, president of Academy's César awards ©Martin Bureau

Under fire over Polanski, the board of the César Academy, which awards France’s equivalent of the Oscars, resigned en masse at the end of last week, a fortnight before its gala ceremony. It comes after more than 200 actors, producers, directors and movie personalities demanded “profound reform”.

The academy had come under fire after Roman Polanski’s new film “An Officer and a Spy” topped the list of nominations for this year’s César awards, which will be handed out on 28 February.

Polanski has been wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl since 1978 and is persona non grata in Hollywood.

In its statement the academy said: “To honour those men and women who made cinema happen in 2019, to find calm and ensure that the festival of film remains just that, a festival, the board… has unanimously decided to resign”.

“This collective decision will allow complete renewal of the board,” it added.

The decision is unlikely, however, to impact the awards ceremony itself.

The statement said a general meeting would be held after the upcoming awards ceremony to elect a new board and management who will work on implementing reforms and modernisation.

The need for reform

The board’s decision follows weeks of agitation. In an open letter on Wednesday, more than 200 actors, producers, directors and movie personalities denounced the “dysfunction” at the academy and “opaqueness” in its accounts.

They also complained that the founding statutes of the Césars had not changed in a long time and that the academy’s nearly 5,000 members do not get a vote or a say in its decisions.

The academy’s board in response said it would ask the National Centre for Cinema, a culture ministry agency, to appoint a mediator to oversee “deep reform” of its statutes and governance.

The academy had previously announced measures to boost female representation in its membership and representation.

The inclusion of Polanski’s film on the Césars’ shortlist was condemned by France’s equality minister, women’s groups and film critics, but the César Academy said it could not be expected to take “moral positions” when evaluating films.

A number of French feminist groups have urged César voters to snub Polanski’s film, titled “J’accuse”, and called for a protest outside the award ceremony, which is to be held in Paris’s Salle Pleyel auditorium.

“When we mobilise, things happen!”, feminist collective Nous Toutes (All Of Us) wrote on Twitter.

Another group, Osez Le Feminisme (Dare Feminism), said: “Imagine what’s next. A new voting panel without male self-confidence, opacity and sexism. Will we finally stop applauding rapists and paedophiles on the run?”

Source: RFI with AFP