Dominique Boutonnat, the president of France’s powerful National Film Board, will remain in post despite his indictment last week following a lawsuit for alleged sexual assault and attempted rape filed by his 22-year-old godson.
Boutonnat, a 51-year-old film financier and producer who took the helm of the CNC in July 2019, was placed under investigation on Feb. 11 after a police complaint was filed by the son of long-time friends on Oct. 7 for an alleged assault dating back to August during a family holiday in Greece.
Boutonnat, who was taken into police custody on Feb. 10 and was indicted the next day, had denied the allegations through his lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny. “Dominique Boutonnat contests having committed any offense, he is fully serene about the outcome of this procedure,” said Marsigny while Boutonnat was in custody. The lawyer added that the indictment was premature. An investigation is underway, and the case will either be brought to trial or dismissed.
Boutonnat, meanwhile, hasn’t made any public statements since being indicted. However, in an internal memo sent to CNC staff earlier this week and seen by Variety, the executive reiterated his innocence and said he will carry on leading the org.
“I would like to let you know that I totally deny these accusations (…) During the procedure of the (investigation), which concerns facts that have no link with carrying out the duties that were given to me, I will continue to exert, with the greatest determination, my mission as the head of the CNC,” said Boutonnat in the memo.
“I fiercely hope that justice will do its work in the best possible conditions and the fastest possible so that my innocence will be recognized,” said Boutonnat.
Last week, local film guilds such as the ARP and advocacy group 50/50 reacted to the allegations and demanded that the government, which backs the CNC, appoint an interim president during the judicial procedure.
But on Monday, France’s culture minister Roselyn Bachelot said during a televised interview on news channel LCI that she won’t take steps to replace Boutonnat while the investigation is ongoing. “(Boutonnat himself) must determine whether he can serenely fulfil his mandate; he will weigh in on that and will decide. It’s not my place to sanction someone who is reputed innocent,” said Bachelot.
“The ruling has not been delivered and the presumption of innocence of Dominique Boutonnat must be respected,” said Bachelot, adding that “the trial of public opinion can’t replace the judicial trial.”
While industry guilds have demanded that Boutonnat step aside for the time being, reaction from major industry figures, even the most vocal ones who seem to spend entire days on social media, has been muted despite a raft of articles in the AFP, L’Obs and Le Figaro detailing the accusations and Boutonnat’s close relationship with the alleged victim.
Speaking off the record, a number of producers, distributors, sales agents and publicists who have been in touch with Boutonnat through the years are completely stunned because the allegations depict a man who is so far removed from the mild-mannered and friendly image that Boutonnat has cultivated in the industry.
Although Boutonnat had faced some harsh criticism due his close ties with President Emmanuel Macron and his background as a producer and financier, he scored a few achievements and gained the trust of many industry figures during the pandemic.
Most notably, he played a key role in setting up a temporary indemnity fund for canceled and postponed shoots with the participation of insurance companies; lobbied to have film and TV shoots obtain the permission to shoot during the lockdowns; and also helped to launch guidelines to combat sexual harassment in the industry.
A day before the complaint was filed by his godson, Boutonnat held a press conference with the org 50/50 and European Association Against Violence Towards Women in the Workplace, to launch a series of workshops aimed at training all industry professionals against sexual harassment during shoots and in the work environment. During the event, Boutonnat made a speech addressing the need for industry workers to speak out about abuse without fear of losing their jobs during the pandemic.
Variety has reached out to Boutonnat’s lawyer Emmanuel Marsigny for further comment. The CNC has not responded to Variety’s requests for comment.