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Judith Godrèche On ‘Moi Aussi’ And France’s #MeToo Movement

Judith Godrèche has been a regular on the Cannes red carpet for close to 30 years for her performances in films such as Patrice Leconte’s 1996 Palme d’Or contender Ridicule and Un Certain Regard cycling drama The Climb in 2019. 

The popular French actress-turned-director touches down this edition with a work of her own: the short film Moi Aussi.

Shot under the radar in Paris in March and gathering 1,000 victims of sexual abuse, the work world premieres as part of the opening ceremony of Cannes Un Certain Regard on Wednesday.

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There is no bigger disruptive force in French cinema right now than Godrèche, who has been at the forefront of triggering a new era of #MeToo in France, a country that has been notoriously slow to tackle sexism, sexual violence and harassment.

The short film follows in the wake of Godrèche’s denunciation in January of her six-year relationship with director Benoît Jacquot in the 1980s, which began when she was 14 years old, and he was 39.

Godrèche, 52, would go on to file a police complaint against the Farewell, My Queen and Diary of a Chambermaid director in February for “rape with constraint”.

The actress says she fell under Jacquot’s influence while dealing with the break-up of her parents, which had left her isolated and alone. 

“I was the perfect target. I was a very, very lonely kid… There was a sense of authority about him, that he was going to protect me, give me a part in a movie, a home,” she says.

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Godrèche also lodged a complaint against director Jacques Doillon, for “rape with violence”, related to his behavior on and off the set of the 1989 film The 15 Year Old Girl

Jacquot and Doillon deny the allegations, but Godrèche is not backing down: “I hope that these men—who continue to go about their lives believing themselves untouchable—will have to look justice and truth straight in the eye.” 

Regardless of what happens in the courts, Godrèche’s actions have already snowballed into something bigger. 

RELATED: Judith Godrèche On The Scars Of Sexual Violence, Harvey Weinstein & Why She Is Shaking France’s Foundations: “I Won’t Let Go…I’m Waiting To See Change” —  Deadline Q&A

Her decision to go public has given other women and men the courage to speak-up, and not just in the cinema world, with stand-up comedy, medicine and sports also seeing an uptick in #MeToo moments. 

Moi Aussi

Cyril Bruneau

In mid-April, for example, 59 Paris comedy clubs launched the #MeTooStandUp charter of good conduct to combat sexual and sexist violence and harassment both on and off the stage.

Film programmer and journalist Laura Pertuy, a board member of French gender equality activist group Collectif 50/50, says Godrèche’s declarations have had “an explosive effect”.

“The fact that these truths are coming from a well-known actress is changing the situation,” she says. 

“It’s the end of a regime and stories to which we were accustomed, but did not question for fear of being blacklisted, or out of a feeling of shame. Now we see value of speaking up within our industry and beyond.”

Among those to come forward in the film world is 43-year-old actor Aurélien Wiik who launched the male-oriented #MeTooGarçons movement on Instagram, revealing he’d been abused between the age of 11 to 15 years old by an agent.

Wiik’s post followed a speech by Godrèche at France’s prestigious César Awards ceremony calling for an end to the culture of silence in the film world around sexual violence, and a new era of truth. 

The very fact Godrèche was invited to address the César ceremony signaled the tide is turning.

Just four editions previously, its 4,500 members voted Roman Polanski as Best Director for An Officer and A Spy in 2020, sparking outrage among women’s rights activists due to the fact he is still wanted in the U.S. on the charge of statutory rape of a 13-year-old in 1977.

Controversy around the celebration of Polanski, as well as accusations of underhanded behavior after it came to light that filmmaker Claire Denis had been deliberately excluded from a gala dinner, saw the body implode that same year. 

Judith Godréche speaks at the César Film Awards in 2024

Stephanie Cardinale/Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

The crisis forced the body to modernize, and it has since introduced a gender-balanced governing board and a ban on professionals under investigation for sexual violence from all of its initiatives. 

The academy courted controversy again in 2023, however, after not a single female director made it into the best director nominations, prompting Collectif 50/50 to launch the #Césarsomale campaign. 

Justine Triet bucked the trend in 2024 becoming the second woman to win the Best Director César with Anatomy of a Fall, which also won in five other categories including Best Film. 

Godrèche has been in the #MeToo spotlight before. In 2017, she was among 20 women cited alongside Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie in the New York Times’ bombshell report into sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein.

She accused Weinstein of pressing up against her and trying to remove her clothing in a meeting in Cannes ahead of the premiere of Ridicule, for which Miramax had acquired North American rights. 

New York prosecutor Joan Illuzzi sounded Godrèche out on whether she would be prepared to take the stand, but the actress declined, fearing her testimony would be discredited due to her past with Jacquot. 

“I felt very guilty for my childhood. I felt that I was somehow responsible and for that I couldn’t be a witness,” she says.

Godréche and Charles Berling in Ridicule.

Godrèche describes the 37-year process of getting to a place where she felt ready to speak up as “a puzzle” with the pieces beginning to fall into place while she was living in LA, her home for close to a decade since 2014.

She was especially inspired by French writer Vanessa Springora’s 2020 memoir Consent, a record of her abuse as a teenager by famous writer Gabriel Matzneff. The book was sent to Godrèche by a producer friend in Paris, who suggested it was a sign that times were changing in France.  Godrèche says her daughter’s adolescence around the same time also woke her up to just how vulnerable she had been as a teenager.

Other key developments include Godrèche’s decision to confront her demons in the semi-autobiographic Arte-drama, A24-backed An Icon of French Cinema, about an actress returning to Paris and the milieu that turned a blind eye to her being abused years before.

The final piece was the resurfacing of a 2011 documentary in which Jacquot openly admits his relationship with her as teenager was “a transgression”.

Alongside Godrèche’s strand, another #MeToo scandal has also been brewing around Gerard Depardieu, who faces multiple accusations of sexual assault and one of rape. 

The case has divided the French film industry, with older artists such as Charlotte Rampling, Carole Bouquet and Nathalie Baye, coming to his defence, while 600 younger talents signed an open letter describing that support of the actor as an attempt to place him beyond the law. 

France has had its #MeToo moments in the past, but they have fizzled out with little support from within the French film industry for people calling out sexually inappropriate behavior.

Actress Adèle Haenel got little public support from her cinema peers when she accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexually assaulting her as a minor. 

She walked out of the 2020 César ceremony a few weeks later when Polanski was announced as the winner of Best Director, a vote that was seen as a betrayal of the #MeToo stand.  

Judith Godreche interview

Moi Aussi

Cyril Bruneau

Haenel has since announced in an open letter last year she was leaving the film industry because of its “general complacency” towards sexual predators. Ruggia, who has denied her accusations, is set to stand trial this year. 

By contrast, Godrèche has received public support from a raft of cinema personalities, including Sophie Marceau, Alexandra Lamy, Anna Mouglalis, Vahina Giocante, Mathieu Kassovitz and François Civil as well as her ex-husbands Maurice Barthélémy and Dany Boon.

She says it is too early to say whether the tide has turned for good in France. 

“It’s a long and hazardous path,” she says. “I’m evolving in a society, the cinema world, which like many other worlds is in denial… It’s an environment with a lot of friendships, pacts, and reciprocal interests. I hope that those who aren’t embracing change and the need for the abuse to stop, won’t find things so cozy in the future.”

Determined to instigate permanent change, Godrèche has called for the creation of a parliamentary commission of inquiry into sexual and gender-based violence in the film industry. 

She would also like to see the introduction of a stipulation by law that all minors be accompanied by a trained, third-party guardian. 

 “The relationship of a child actor to a director is the same as that of a child to a figure of authority in other situations: if the adult wants to abuse their power, they can do so with little problem right now,” she says.

The actress also led a recent campaign calling for the suspension of Dominique Boutonnat as president of France’s National Cinema Centre, while he awaits trial on charges of sexually assaulting his godson during a holiday in Greece in 2020.

Boutonnat denies the accusations. Godrèche and other French cinema professionals say that while they respect the principle of presumption of innocence, Boutonnat’s position at the head of the CNC is inappropriate at a time when the film industry is questioning its practices around how to tackle sexist and sexual violence.

Prior to travelling to Cannes for tonight’s screening, Godrèche fronted a physical protest in front of the CNC HQ in Paris on Monday, calling for Boutonnat to step down.

Read the digital edition of Deadline’s Disruptors/Cannes magazine here.

Godrèche has also expanded her campaign beyond the film world into the general public via a call on social networks for victims of sexual abuse to come forward with their testimonies. She has had 6,000 replies to date, which in turn have inspired the new short film.

“I wanted to pay tribute to the victims, those who wrote to me and those who did not, with an artistic project,” she explains. 

“I have several projects in progress. One of them is the short film that I shot on March 23. One thousand victims came to Paris for this non-profit filming. We ‘occupied’ an avenue in Paris. It was a truly overwhelming moment.”

Her end goal is to create a foundation to support all victims of sexual abuse in France. 

She suggests that the only way sexual violence will be stamped out for good is if victims from all walks of life speak up. 

“Issues of money, power and interpersonal skills have so far prevented things from changing. But if the victims—who do not necessarily have this power—all started talking, again, again and again, the hubbub will rise above those who have the power and isolate them. I am just a single whistle. We need a fanfare.”

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