French director Catherine Corsini was meant to be the seventh female director in competition at the 72nd edition of Cannes with her film “Le Retour” (The Return). But her competition slot is on hold for now after news broke about several alleged inappropriate incidents during filming.
The night before the press conference on April 13, Cannes chief Thierry Fremaux confirmed to the director that she would have a competition slot, but shortly before the start of the announcement, the festival’s administration board decided to hold off on including the title as part of the lineup.
The delay came after the board discovered that Corsini was allegedly being accused of harassment by crew members, while other members of the crew had been allegedly been accused of inappropriate acts against two female actors, according to French reports. Fremaux told Variety the “administration board wished to gather more information about the situation around the film before taking a decision on whether to include the film in its Official Selection.”
Contacted by Variety, the film’s producer, Elisabeth Perez, called the accusations “malevolent rumors,” and said these allegations should not “lead to the life or death of a film.” Nor should they “take away its right to be selected for Cannes,” she asserted.
One of the incidents involved an org called the CCHSCT, whose task is to prevent violence, harassment and sexism on shoots. The organization audited the production of “Le Retour” following complaints and alerted the general attorney, according to the news publication Le Parisien.
Another issue arose, according to the National Film Center, (CNC), after a scene of a sexual nature involving the 15-year old female protagonist of the film was added to the script and allegedly filmed without the consent of the Commission des Enfants du Spectacle, a government-backed organization. In reaction to this specific incident, the CNC said it “has decided, considering the failure in respecting the social obligations of the production, to withdraw its subsidies” for the film.
The CNC said it wished to “avoid pulling out the whole amount of the subsidies to not penalize the whole of the movie” and “all the people and crew members who worked on the film, depriving them from being paid,” because of a “breach committed by the producer.” The full amount of the subsidies is approximately €580,000, according to Le Parisien.
The organization said it was considering cutting a portion of these subsidies to cover the salaries of the cast and crew members who worked on the movie.
“Le Retour” follows Kheìdidja, a woman taking care of the children of a wealthy family during a summer in Corsica. The job allows Kheìdidja to return to the island with her own daughters after fleeing it 15 years prior under tragic circumstances.
The movie marks Corsini’s follow up to “The Divide” which competed at Cannes in 2021 and won a Cesar award for supporting actor Aïssatou Diallo Sagna.
The CNC’s decision to pull at least part of its subsidies from the production of “Le Retour” underscores the organization’s commitment to enforce regulations to prevent harassment, sexual violence and sexism during shoots. The CNC has also made it mandatory for French producers to complete training to raise awareness on sexual harassment and gender-based violence in order to be eligible for subsidies. But many industry professionals are pointing to the fact that the president of the CNC, Dominique Boutonnat, has stayed in his post for a second term despite being indicted on sexual assault charges and is now facing trial.
Cannes broke its own record this year with a record six films from female directors slated for the competition. The festival, which was the first international film event to sign a gender parity pledge in 2018, faced criticism in recent years for falling short of this promise. Fremaux told Variety following the presser that more female helmers will be added to the Official Selection and added that “bringing more women in competition is part of our global effort to achieve more diversity and parity.”
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