One week on, France’s industry is still responding to the hot-button Cesar Awards, the country’s equivalent to the Oscars.
French actor Isabelle Adjani, journalist Caroline Fourest and Rachel Khan, an actor and jurist, collectively wrote an op-ed arguing that the political undertone of some acceptance speeches made during the ceremony are breeding divisions within France.
Published in Elle magazine on Thursday, the letter — which doesn’t name anyone and maintains a fairly ideological tone — suggests that the ceremony’s political edge was detrimental to a sense of togetherness and universalism that, they argue, French cinema should promote.
“Almost everyone delivered a monologue that we expected from [them], as if it was a prerequisite to speak out about ‘our causes,’ or ‘our community,’ or ‘our followers,'” reads the op-ed. “As if it has become impossible to find words that speak to everyone. As if cinema can no longer unite. How can we stir the desire to reopen theaters to get together again?”
The most political speech of the evening came from Jean-Pascal Zadi, the actor and director of the movie “Tout Simplement Noir,” who won best male newcomer.
While on stage, Zadi named the few Black creatives who received Cesar Awards before him; paid tribute to Adama Traoré and the music producer Michel Zecler, who were victims of police brutality; and said humanity should be everyone’s mission.
Other politically charged moments included a speech by stand-up comedian and actor Fary, who referred to the recent controversy in France over the casting of a Black actor, Omar Sy, to play Arsene Lupin, a cult character in French literature, in the acclaimed Netflix series “Lupin.” The op-ed could also be referring to Corinne Masiero, who appeared on stage covered with fake blood and eventually stripped naked with a message of support for freelance industry workers scrawled on her body.
Overall, the article appears to promote France’s universalism and republican model, an ideal dating back to the Enlightenment period and the French Revolution, which calls for a devotion to the “unity and indivisibility of the republic.”
Because of this model, which dictates that everyone must be free and equal, and that no group should receive special treatment, diversity quotas and other affirmative action policies based on racial and ethnic indicators are banned in France.
The letter also argues that a “new form of censorship” is on the rise.
“The intimidation and the summoning are eating up our freedom of writing, translating, drawing, directing and interpreting,” says the op-ed, which appears to condemn an American model of inclusion and affirmative action in France.
“Do you have to be gay to direct a love story between two men? Black, young and American to translate a young African-American poet?” ask the authors. “Have the same identity of a character to interpret him?”
Fourest, an advocate for secularism in France and a feminist champion, made her directorial debut last year with “Sisters in Arms,” an action film revolving around a battalion of Kurdish female warriors and international volunteers.