France detains top film directors over sex abuse allegations

Benoit Jacquot and Jacques Doillon accused of sexual assault, charges the two men deny.

French film director Benoit Jacquot, left, arrives at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation for questioning over accusations of sexual abuse, in Paris [Guillaume Daudin/AFP]

French authorities have detained two leading arthouse film directors, Benoit Jacquot and Jacques Doillon, over accusations of sexual abuse, as a renewed #MeToo reckoning rocks France’s film industry.

Jacquot, 77, and Doillon, 80, arrived at a Paris police station on Monday morning, accompanied by their lawyers, according to the AFP news agency.

The directors’ detention over alleged abuses, some dating back to the 1980s and all of which they deny, came as activists say French cinema has too long provided cover for abuse.

Earlier this year, Judith Godreche, a 52-year-old actor and director, formally accused Jacquot of rape and Doillon of sexual assault when she was a minor, accusations the two men deny.

Godreche has described Jacquot as having had an unhealthy “hold” over her during a relationship of “perversion” with him that started when she was 14, from 1986 to 1992.

She has also accused Doillon of “putting his fingers down” her “panties” during a screen test for one of his films when she was 15 and still with Jacquot.

Several other actors have also filed complaints against both the men.

French film director Jacques Doillon, left, arrives at the Directorate of Criminal Investigation for questioning over accusations of sexual abuse, in Paris [Guillaume Daudin/AFP]

Isild Le Besco, 41, has alleged Jacquot raped her between 1998 and 2007 during a relationship that started when she was 16 and he was 52.

Julia Roy, a 34-year-old actor who has appeared in several of his films, has accused him of sexual assault in “a context of violence and moral constraint which lasted several years”, a source close to the case said.

Le Besco has also claimed that Doillon made advances during work sessions, while actor Anna Mouglalis alleged the filmmaker forcefully kissed her in 2011.

‘I am crying’

Judicial sources say the two filmmakers could be held until Tuesday evening and potentially be questioned in the presence of their accusers.

The directors’ lawyers have said that there was no need to detain them to interrogate them, and that they should be considered innocent until proven guilty.

Jacquot’s lawyer, Julia Minkowski, said her client would “finally be able to express himself before the law”, denouncing what she called the “unacceptable excesses” of media coverage on the issue.

Doillon’s lawyer, Marie Dose, has said no legal criteria could justify his being detained for questioning “36 years” after the incident alleged by Godreche, and he could have answered queries without being held in custody.

The prosecutor’s office confirmed the two men’s detention, but added that both were presumed innocent for the time being.

Godreche on Instagram said she was deeply moved. “I am crying,” she wrote.

“I don’t know if I have the strength, but I will have it. I will have it… For her,” she wrote, posting a picture of her teenage self next to Jacquot, 25 years her senior.

Since breaking her silence, Godreche has become a leading voice in France’s #MeToo movement.

After she appealed for a cinema oversight body, French lawmakers in May voted to create a commission to investigate sexual and gender-based violence in the film industry and other cultural sectors.

Last week, the head of France’s top cinema institution, Dominique Boutonnat, stepped down from his position after he was convicted of sexually assaulting his godson in 2020.

Boutonnat has been given a three-year prison sentence, two of them suspended. He will, however, be able to serve his one-year jail term at home wearing an electronic bracelet.

Cinema legend Gerard Depardieu, 75, is also set to stand trial in October for sexually assaulting two women.

He risks a second trial after he was charged in 2020 with the rape of an actor in 2018 when she was 22.

Source: News Agencies