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‘French Oscars’ ceremony features awkward lack of women

France’s answer to the Oscars, the Cesar Awards, will hold its ceremony on Friday, with a distinct lack of women nominees despite a post-MeToo overhaul aimed at improving its feminist credentials. 

There are no women among the nominees for best director this year — indeed there has not been a female winner of that award since 2000 (Tonie Marshall for “Venus Beauty Institute”). 

That is despite French women directors cleaning up on the festival circuit, winning top prizes at Cannes, Berlin and Venice in the last two years.  

At the Cesars, the best film category includes only one made by a woman: Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, sister of former first lady and singer Carla Bruni. 

And her film, “Les Amandiers” (titled “Forever Young” abroad), about a sexually promiscuous group of drama students in the 1980s, has been overshadowed by a scandal involving its star, Sofiane Bennacer, who is being investigated by police following allegations of rape and violence against a partner. 

“Last year, the Oscar Academy was criticised for having a selection that was so white, and this year for being so male. The 2023 Cesars combine both types of invisibility,” said the 50/50 Collectif, which campaigns for increased female representation in French film.

It is all the more awkward given that the Cesar Academy went through a root-and-branch renewal in 2020 after Roman Polanski, who has been convicted of raping a child in the 1970s, topped the list of nominees and won best director, triggering angry protests.

Fearing renewed protests, the Cesar organisers said last month they would not invite anyone facing sexual misconduct allegations to the ceremony, thus barring Bennacer who had been tipped for a nomination prior to the allegations. 

It is still considering whether to ban them entirely from future nominations. 

Meanwhile, the frontrunners for awards on Friday night offer some safer options. 

Leading the nominations are a light-hearted crime caper, “The Innocent”, starring one of France’s favourite actors, Louis Garrel, and “The Night of the 12th”, about an investigation into the murder of a young woman. 

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