Adèle Haenel Calls Out French Film Industry for Protecting ‘Sexual Aggressors’: They’ll ‘Do Anything to Defend Their Rapist Chiefs’

·3-min read

Adèle Haenel, the French star of Cannes prize-winning film “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” vanished from the film world in the aftermath of the 2020 Cesar Awards ceremony. That year, Roman Polanski won best director and Haenel, who was on the ground for her nomination with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” walked out of the ceremony in a burst of anger upon hearing Polanski’s name, shouting “Bravo pedophilia!”

Several months prior, Haenel had accused French director Christophe Ruggia of having sexually harassed her for years starting when she was just 12 years old, prompting the birth of France’s #MeToo movement. Since then, Haenel exited the movie biz to dedicate herself to political activism, as well as theater and dance with the artist Gisèle Vienne. She recently appeared on French TV to support the strike and protest against the country’s unpopular pension reform.

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While some hoped she would eventually return to acting after being briefly attached to Bruno Dumont’s next film “The Empire,” Haenel denounced the local industry’s complacency toward sexual aggressors and, in an open letter published in Telerama magazine, explained that her decision to retire was a political act.

In her letter, Haenel alludes to the recent investigation conducted by Mediapart into Gerard Depardieu, who has continued getting roles despite being accused of sexual violence by 13 women and charged with rape. Haenel also mentions Dominique Boutonnat, the president of the National Film Board who, despite being indicted for sexual assault, was reappointed last July for a second term at the helm of France’s biggest film institution.

Below are some key excerpts from Haenel’s open letter, translated from French:

“I’ve decided to politicize my retreat from the film industry to denounce its generalized complacency toward sexual aggressors.”

“Let’s say it clearly: As the biodiversity collapses, the militarization of Europe is taking off and hunger and misery keep spreading, why is the film world — collegially gathered at the Cesar Awards to promote their films — obsessively eager to stay ‘lighthearted’? To make sure they talk about ‘nothing.'”

“In a context of historic social movement, we’re awaiting to see if the big players of the film industry are expecting — like the sponsors from the luxury industry — police forces to make sure everything happens as usual on the red carpet of the Cannes Film Festival.”

“Meanwhile they all join hands to save the face of Depardieu, Pokanski and Boutonnat. It unnerves them and disturbs them that victims make too much noise; they would prefer it if we continued to disappear and die in silence. They’re ready to do anything to defend their rapist chiefs, those who are so rich that they believe they belong to a superior species, those who make a show of this superiority by… objectifying women and subordinates.”

“I have no other weapon than my body and my integrity. Cancel culture in the primary sense: you have the money, the strength and the money, you bask in it, but you won’t have me as your spectator. I cancel you from my world. I depart, I go on strike, I join my comrades, whose quest for meaning and dignity rules over that of money and power.”

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