MeToo film movement shifts from rhetoric to action

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PARIS — As the MeToo movement evolves, the film industry is seeking practical ways to ensure its opposition to harassment and abuse is translated into tangible improvements.اضافة اعلان

Campaign group Time’s Up  is the latest to offer a concrete initiative, announcing plans for a panel of experts to hear complaints, similar to standards authorities for doctors, teachers, and other professionals.

Currently, staff on movie productions often fear “that if they make a complaint against a senior figure, they will be devoured”, Dame Heather Rabbatts, chair of Time’s Up UK, told AFP.

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

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

“We want to avoid trial by media. It doesn’t help anybody,” said Rabbatts.

“The independent standards body would have the highest levels of confidentiality and mitigate the problem of people being treated as though they are guilty until proven innocent.”

‘Profound distrust’
The Hollywood Commission, set up in 2017 to tackle abuse in the US industry, is working on a similar panel, as well as an anonymous reporting platform to gather complaints.

France has also introduced practical measures, including insurance that covers the cost of a production being halted while a complaint is investigated.

Previously, “people spoke out but nothing happened because there was too much money involved to stop filming”, said Iris Brey, a writer specializing in cinema and gender.

Since last year, the Centre National du Cinema has been running training courses in preventing and detecting sexual harassment — mandatory for any film accessing France’s generous subsidies.

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

Some companies, including Netflix and Amazon, now require productions to have diverse heads of department before a project gets green-lit.

But there is a long way to go.

Riley Keough, who happens to be Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, won in the newcomer’s Un Certain Regard section at last month’s Cannes Film Festival with her first film, “War Pony”.

She told reporters that, despite her fame, she and co-director Gina Gammell found it very difficult to raise funding.

“Many first-time male filmmakers are getting a lot more money than first-time female filmmakers,” she said.

“There’s a profound distrust in women being in positions of leadership. Maybe that isn’t conscious but I see it happening.”

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

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

She highlighted Roman Polanski’s best picture win at the 2020 Cesar Awards — France’s version of the Oscars.

This was despite fresh 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,” said Prat. “It was a green light to anyone who behaves that way.”

The incident caused uproar, with French actress Adele Haenel — herself the victim of abuse by a director when she was 12 — pointedly walking out of the ceremony and the Cesar board resigning en masse in the aftermath.

Prat argues the rot starts 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 France’s 50/50 Collective, which campaigns for gender parity in the film business, was recently torn apart after a board member was accused of sexually assaulting a woman at one of its meetings.

Real progress requires more fundamental change, says Brey.

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