French 'Oscars' Academy board resigns amid gender controversies

The Césars recognize the most remarkable works of French cinema.

Paris -- Two weeks before the awards ceremony, the board of the Césars Academy, which each year recognizes the most remarkable works of French cinema, resigned on Thursday amid accusations it lacked transparency and representation.

Created in 1975 by French producer Georges Cravenne and modeled after the Oscars, the Césars Awards Academy made the decision to change direction following a month of controversies over its attitude toward women, which included 12 nominations for Roman Polanski's latest film .

The Board of Directors announced in its press release a “complete renewal of leadership” after the 45th awards ceremony on Feb. 28, 2020, in order “to regain serenity and make the cinema festival a celebration.”

The decision comes after hundreds of producers, technicians, actors and actresses asked for more democracy, transparency and representation inside the Academy.

In an open letter in the French newspaper Le Monde, 400 members of the Academy criticized the board's decision to refuse to allow two female directors (Virginie Despentes and Claire Denis) to accompany young actors to a Césars-organized evening, calling the board's manner “arbitrary, even discriminatory.”

Minister of Culture Franck Riester made his own plea in a tweet on Thursday that the Academy's governance "must be guided by democratic functioning and the requirements of openness, transparency, parity and diversity." Headed by producer Alain Terzian since 2003, the Césars Academy is currently composed of 35% women and 65% men and is regularly criticized for recognizing more men than women in its awards. According to the feminist group Osez le Féminisme! , only 6% of Césars awards go to women.

The French Academy is now in turmoil over the 12 nominations for Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and A Spy,” causing an uproar among feminist groups after new accusations of rape emerged last November from photographer Valentine Monnier. Polanski's lawyers denied those accusations.

The French-Polish director is still wanted in the U.S. for the statutory rape of a minor but has benefited from France’s general complacency toward male artists and the commitment to separating the art from the artist.

Several feminist collectives called for protests on Feb. 28 in front of the Pleyel Hall in Paris, where the 45th Césars Awards ceremony will be held. The ceremony is the biggest cinema event of the year, with three hours of live performance over the course of which the winners are revealed, in front of more than 1,700 guests. In an open letter published in newspaper Le Parisien, feminist groups call on the Academy to “refuse to decorate a pedophile rapist who poses as a victim.”