France’s Cesar Academy Vows to Reform Itself to Overcome Crisis

Faced with mounting pressures within the French film industry and threats of a boycott, the board of the Cesar Academy – which distributes France’s equivalent of the Oscars, the Cesar Awards – has vowed to reform its operating model and corporate leadership with the help of a mediator.

Led by French producer Alain Terzian, the Cesar Academy has been under fire since announcing the 12 nominations for Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy,” as well as reportedly shutting out feminist personalities such as director Claire Denis and author Virginie Despentes from one of its gala events preceding the ceremony.

Many in the industry have pointed out the lack of gender parity, diversity and transparency within the Cesar’s voting body, as well as within the academy itself. A petition to overhaul the Cesar’s signed by 400 film figures, including French stars such as helmer Jacques Audiard, Arnaud Desplechin, producer Said Ben Said, actors Omar Sy, Lea Seydoux, and directors Michel Hazanavicius, Eric Toledano and Olivier Nakache, was unveiled on Tuesday in the newspaper Le Monde.

The petition denounces the “elitist and closed-off system” regulating the Cesar awards and compares it to the BAFTAs and the European Film Awards, which are deemed more “democratic.”

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“The Cesar Academy comprises 4700 members… but as members, we don’t have a say when it comes to the functioning of the Academy… or the actual ceremony,” says the petition.

The Academy said on Tuesday that it has requested from the National Film Board the appointment of a mediator who will be tasked with helping the body make “profound changes to the status and governance of the academy.”

According to a statement: “The Association for the Promotion of Cinema (which runs the Cesar Academy) has taken note of critics, questions and issues about the governance of the academy… We’re now calling for an appeasement in order to avoid endangering the smooth unfolding of the 45th Cesar ceremony.”

The Academy sent a long statement to journalists on Monday evening saying that one of the priorities of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, which is also presided by Terzian, will be to reach gender parity within its 21-member administrative board and its 47-member general assembly.

“These measures will also help (in) building more ties between different generations,” said the Association, probably referring to an ageing membership.

The Association also acknowledged that gender parity was needed within the voting body of the Cesar awards, which is currently made up of 35% women and 65% men, according to the organization’s own data.

The Cesar Academy was approached last year by the advocacy group 50/50 for 2020 to sign a pledge similar to the one signed by all major international film festivals, starting with Cannes in 2018, but the Academy showed little interest and discussions fell flat, according to an industry source. Back then, the country had not yet embraced the global cultural shift which has stemmed from the #metoo movement.

However, since the bombshell accusation from actor Adèle Haenel against the now-indicted director Christophe Ruggia last November, followed by Valentine Monnier’s rape claim against Polanski, the tide in France has changed.

The 45th Cesar ceremony will take place Feb. 28 at the Salle Pleyel theater in Paris.

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