The MeToo film movement moves from rhetoric to action

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Paris (AFP)- As the MeToo movement evolves, the film industry is looking for practical ways to ensure that its opposition to harassment and abuse translates into tangible improvements.

Campaign group Time’s Up UK is the latest to come up with a concrete initiative, announcing plans for an expert panel to hear complaints, similar to standards authorities for doctors, teachers and other professionals.

Currently, workers in film productions often fear “that if they make a complaint against a senior official, they will be eaten up”, Dame Heather Rabbatts, president of Time’s Up UK, told AFP.

The proposed three-person panel will include harassment and abuse experts who can offer “assistance, mediation and investigation”, she said.

The idea goes both ways in the debate, seeking to counter those who say allegations of abuse lead to people being “cancelled” before there has been a proper investigation.

“We want to avoid lawsuits by the media. That doesn’t help anyone,” Rabbatts said.

“The independent standards body would have the highest levels of confidentiality and alleviate the problem of people being treated as if they were guilty until proven guilty.”

“Deep distrust”

The Hollywood Commission, created in 2017 to combat abuse in the American industry, is working on a similar panel, as well as an anonymous reporting platform to collect complaints.

France has also put in place practical measures, including insurance that covers the cost of production stopped while a complaint is being investigated.

Previously, “people spoke up but nothing happened because there was too much money involved to stop filming,” said film and genre writer Iris Brey.

Since last year, the National Cinema Center has been organizing training in the prevention and detection of sexual harassment, mandatory for any film benefiting from generous subsidies from France.

Having more women on set is also a crucial part of the battle.

Some companies, including Netflix and Amazon, now require productions to have various department heads before a project goes green.

Protesters declared Polanski ‘best rapist’ after his Cesar win in France despite history of abuse Lucas BARIOULETAFP

But there is still a long way to go.

Riley Keough, who happens to be the granddaughter of Elvis Presley, won the Un Certain Regard newcomer section at the Cannes Film Festival last month with her debut film, ‘War Pony.’

She told reporters that, despite her fame, she and co-director Gina Gammell had struggled to raise funds.

“A lot of newbie male filmmakers make a lot more money than newbie filmmakers,” she said.

“There is a deep distrust of women in leadership positions. Maybe it’s not conscious, but I see it happening.”

‘Unacceptable’

France’s prolific industry has a particularly high proportion of female directors, but misogyny is still entrenched, said Reine Prat, who writes on gender and culture.

“An exception is made for culture,” she told AFP. “Behaviour is permitted in this sector that is unacceptable elsewhere.”

She highlighted the best photo of Roman Polanski at the César 2020 – the French version of the Oscars.

Adele Haenel, star of
Adele Haenel, star of ‘Portrait of a Lady on Fire’, was one of the main voices of the MeToo movement in France -AFP

This is despite new rape allegations against him, adding to his long-standing conviction for violently raping a 13-year-old girl, for which he remains a fugitive from US justice.

“We talk about separating the art from the artist, but they were clearly paying homage to Mr. Polanski himself,” Prat said. “It was a green light for anyone who behaved that way.”

The incident caused an outcry, with French actress Adèle Haenel – herself the victim of director abuse at the age of 12 – ostensibly leaving the ceremony and Cesar’s board resigning en masse in the stride.

Prat argues that the rot begins at the top of French society, pointing to the three ministers in President Emmanuel Macron’s governments who have been accused of rape.

But to complicate matters, the French collective 50/50, which campaigns for gender parity in cinema, was recently torn apart after a board member was accused of sexually assaulting a woman during from one of its meetings.

Real progress requires more fundamental change, says Brey.

“Nothing will change unless we ask ourselves why desire is so often linked to dominance. Questioning our desires is something both men and women need to do,” she said.

“The movie industry shapes our images of sex and desire. That’s why it’s so important to have these conversations on film sets.”

About Bernice D. Brewer

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