French actress Adèle Haenel quits film industry over ‘complacency’ towards sexual predators

Adèle Haenel has called out the French cinema industry and quit acting - here seen during a Parisian protest (May 2022)
Adèle Haenel has called out the French cinema industry and quit acting - here seen during a Parisian protest (May 2022) Copyright AFP
By David Mouriquand
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French actress Adèle Haenel has stated that she’s stepping away from the world of film for “political reasons”.

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Adèle Haenel, the star of critically acclaimed films Portrait of a Lady on Fire and Deerskin, has sent a letter to French magazine Télérama in which she explains her reasons for quitting the film industry, denouncing the “general complacency” toward “sexual aggressors” like Gérard Depardieu and Roman Polanski.

“I decided to politicise my retirement from cinema to denounce the general complacency of the profession towards sexual aggressors and more generally the way in which this sphere collaborates with the mortal, ecocidal, racist order of the world such as it is,” she wrote.

It bothers them that the victims make too much noise. They would prefer that we disappear and die in silence.

The actress, 34, who had previously shared that she had been abused by the director Christophe Ruggia between the ages of 12 and 15, added that the French film industry had reacted with indifference to #MeToo accusations.

“They join hands (to protect) the Depardieus, the Polanskis (…) It bothers them that the victims make too much noise. They would prefer that we disappear and die in silence.”

Depardieu has been accused of multiple alleged incidents of sexually inappropriate behaviour. His lawyers have denied any criminal behaviour. 

Polanski continues to live in France and Switzerland despite an outstanding US warrant for fleeing a court case in which he was convicted of statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl.

This is not the first time Haenel has denounced Polanski.

When the filmmaker won the César for Best Director in 2020 for his film An Officer and a Spy, Hanael walked out of the ceremony yelling “Bravo paedophilia!” and “Shame!”

“Faced with the monopoly of the words and finances of the bourgeoisie, I have no other weapons than my body and my integrity. This is the meaning of cancel culture: you have the money, the strength and all the glory, you gargle with it, but you will not have me as a spectator. I cancel you out of my world,” said Haenel in the letter. 

Pyramide Films
Adèle Haenel (left) with Noémie Merlant in Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on FirePyramide Films
I don’t want to be part of a feminist washing machine. It’s bullshit.

The actress, whose last performance was in Aude Léa Rapin’s 2019 film Les héros ne meurent jamais, also recently gave an interview with German magazine FAQ, in which she revealed that the film industry “is absolutely reactionary, racist, and patriarchal.”

“We are mistaken if we say that the powerful are of goodwill, that the world is indeed moving in the right direction under their good and sometimes unskilful management. Not at all. The only thing that moves society structurally is social struggle. And it seems to me that in my case, to leave is to fight. By leaving this industry for good, I want to take part in another world, in another cinema.”

In this same FAQ interview, Haenel pointed out the hypocrisy of the industry.

“The director of the CNC, the French organization for the promotion of cinema, Dominique Boutonnat, remains in office while he is indicted for sexual assault. But Thierry Frémaux, from the Cannes Film Festival, puts three women in the 2022 Official Selection, so I am told that this is going in the right direction?” she said, adding: “I don’t want to be part of a feminist washing machine. It’s bullshit.”

Arte Cinema
Adèle Haenel (left) with co-star Jean Dujardin in Quentin Dupieux's DeerskinArte Cinema
If I stayed today in this film industry, I would be a kind of feminist guarantee to this masculine and patriarchal industry.

Haenel’s next film was slated to be The Empire, a new science-fiction movie from director Bruno Dumont. However, she exited that project due to disagreements about the subject matter and cast.

“At first, I thought it looked like a lot of fun: a kind of Luke Skywalker in space,” she said of the project. “The problem is that behind this funny façade, it was a dark, sexist, and racist world that was defended. The script was full of jokes about cancel culture and sexual violence. I tried to discuss it with Dumont, because I thought a dialogue was possible. I wanted to believe for the umpteenth time that it was not intentional. But it’s intentional. This disregard is deliberate.”

Haenel has stated she will continue to act in theatre and is open to someday making independent films with collaborators she trusts. However, don’t expect that any time soon.

“If I stayed today in this film industry, I would be a kind of feminist guarantee to this masculine and patriarchal industry,” she said.

“My dream is to make it clear: This industry defends a capitalist, patriarchal, racist, sexist world of structural inequality. This means that this industry works hand in hand with the global economic order, in which all lives are not equal.”

Additional sources • Télérama, FAQ

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