French Film Academy Vows Reforms Amid Membership Backlash & As César Awards Loom Under Threat Of Protest

J'Accuse (An Officer and a Spy)

France’s Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma is facing strong backlash within its membership ranks, a little more than two weeks ahead of the César Awards, the local equivalent to the Oscars. Some 200 artists published an open letter in Le Monde on Monday, calling into question an “elitist and closed” Academy and saying they have “no voice” in how the organization operates.

The upset has been brewing since mid-January, and has escalated after this year’s César nominations were announced with Roman Polanski’s An Officer And A Spy in the lead at 12. The Oscar-winning filmmaker has for decades lived in France after fleeing the United States on the eve of final sentencing in a statutory rape case. He has continued to make films here, but in the #MeToo era, and amid a more recent allegation (which he has denied), he has become an increasingly controversial figure.

After the nominations, women’s association Osez le Feminisme called for a protest outside the César ceremony which will be held on February 28 in Paris.

The signatories of the Monde letter, who include Jacques Audiard, Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet, Bertrand Tavernier, Céline Sciamma, Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Mati Diop and Omar Sy, are calling for “an in-depth overhaul” of the modes of governance of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema which manages the Academy “and of the democratic operations that govern them.”

They further said that statements made by Academy president Alain Terzian over the weekend about efforts to work towards parity within the organization were welcome, but “insufficient.” Academy members are seeking the ability to directly vote for office holders, such as is the case with AMPAS and BAFTA.

On Monday night, the Academy released a statement saying it was undertaking measures to “modernize” the Césars and making efforts to balance the voting body which is currently 65% male.

Today, the APC said it had “taken note of the criticisms, questions and remarks regarding the governance of the Academy” and that the board of directors is asking the National Film Center to appoint a mediator to oversee “a far-reaching reform of the Academy’s statutes and governance.” The APC also asked for calm going forward so that the César ceremony runs unperturbed.

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