‘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.

'French Oscars' ceremony features awkward lack of women
The Olympia concert venue in Paris in 2021, ahead of the start of the 46th edition of the Cesar Film Awards ceremony. (Photo by Pascal LE SEGRETAIN / various sources / AFP)

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. 

READ MORE: ‘French Oscars’ bars those investigated for sex crimes

“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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Paris’ Louvre safeguarding Ukraine art treasures

The Louvre in Paris is hosting 16 works of art, including 1,500-year-old Byzantine icons, from a museum in Kyiv in order to protect them from the war, it said on Wednesday.

Paris' Louvre safeguarding Ukraine art treasures

“Since the start of the war, like other museums, we have been concerned to see how we can support our Ukrainian colleagues. In the autumn, faced with the intensity of the conflict, we decided to carry out this rescue,” Louvre president Laurence des Cars told AFP.

“It’s not much in a sea of sadness and desolation, but it’s a symbol,” she added.

She said the Louvre was particularly concerned by the risk of theft and illicit trafficking of artworks and relics if they had stayed in Ukraine.

Among the works being safeguarded by the Louvre are five Byzantine icons from the Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum, Ukraine’s national arts institution, which will be exhibited in Paris from June 14th to November 6th.

Four of the icons are from Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt and date from the 6th and 7th centuries, and the fifth is from late 13th or early 14th century Constantinople.

Eleven other works, “among the most emblematic and most fragile” from the Ukrainian collection, will be housed in the Louvre’s reserves “until the situation improves,” Des Cars said.

She welcomed a Ukrainian delegation, including the head of the Khanenko museum, in October when UN cultural body UNESCO declared 240 sites in their country had been damaged by the war.

Earlier that month, a rocket landed near the Khanenko Museum, blowing out the windows.

Most of its works have been moved into the museum’s storage, but are at risk from temperature variations caused by power cuts.

The operation to rescue the 16 selected works was supported by the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas.