The board overseeing the Cesar Academy, which distributes France’s equivalent of the Oscars, has revealed that it will resign following the Cesar Awards ceremony on Feb. 28. As a result, Alain Terzian, a French producer who presides both the Cesar Academy and the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, is also expected to resign. Other members who will resign include Danièle Thompson, Philippe Labor, Margaret Menegov and the former Cannes president Gilles Jacob.
The shock announcement by the 21-member board of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema – the organization overseeing the Cesar Academy – comes on the heels of industry-wide backlash following 12 Cesar nominations for Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy.” The Cesar’s were also heavily criticised for shutting out feminist personalities such as director Claire Denis and author Virginie Despentes from one of recent gala events preceding the ceremony.
The decision also comes just days after the Cesar Academy vowed to reform its operating model and corporate leadership with the help of a mediator. In a statement, the board said it had taken this measure “to honor all those who made (French) cinema in 2019, and to gain back some serenity and ensure that the celebration of cinema remains a celebration.”
In recent weeks, the Cesar Awards have been faced with mounting pressure within the French film industry and threats of a boycott. Many industry executives have highlighted a 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 awards, which was unveiled on Tuesday in the newspaper Le Monde, was signed by 400 film figures, including French stars such as actors Omar Sy and Lea Seydoux, producer Said Ben Said and directors Michel Hazanavicius, Eric Toledano, Jacques Audiard, Arnaud Desplechin and Olivier Nakache.
Those who signed the petition argued that other major film ceremonies such as the BAFTAs and the European Film Awards are more “democratic,” because their members can elect the board members of their Academy, among other things.
“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,” said the petition.
Although the nominations for Polanski didn’t come from the board of the Academy but from the 4313 members who pre-selected it, some in the industry have pointed out that these nominations underscore the urgent need to welcome younger, more diverse members, as well as more women.