French police release filmmaker, prepare to charge another over alleged sexual abuse

Actor and director Judith Godreche earlier this year accused both directors of sexual abuse, some dating back to the 1980s (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)
Actor and director Judith Godreche earlier this year accused both directors of sexual abuse, some dating back to the 1980s (STEPHANE DE SAKUTIN)

French authorities are preparing to press charges against a leading arthouse film director but released another one following day-long interrogations after a women actor accused them of sexual abuse, a source close to the case said Tuesday.

Benoit Jacquot, 77, will spend a second night in jail and be presented to a judge Wednesday morning as the next step before possibly charging him, the source said.

Jacques Doillon, 80, was released without charge, according to his lawyer Marie Dose.

Both men had spent Monday night at a Paris police station after being summoned for questioning that morning, and have denied all charges.

Jacquot's lawyer, Julia Minkowski, denounced a "wide range of dysfunctions of the justice system, due to extreme media exposure which has led to unacceptable excesses".

Their interrogation over the alleged abuse of much younger actors, including in the 1980s and in several instances when they were underage, comes amid claims by activists that French cinema has too long provided cover for abuse.

Investigators opened a probe after actor and director Judith Godreche, 52, earlier this year officially accused Jacquot of rape during a relationship with him that started when she was 14 and he was 25 years her senior.

She also filed a complaint against Doillon over sexual assault during a film shoot when she was 15.

Several other actors have since come forward with similar allegations.

Isild Le Besco, 41, has filed a complaint over rape during a relationship with Jacquot that also started when she was underage, and Julia Roy, 34, has accused him of sexual assault.

Le Besco has also claimed Doillon made advances during work sessions, while Anna Mouglalis, 46, alleged the filmmaker forcefully kissed her in 2011.

Jacquot and Doillon's lawyers have objected to their clients being detained for questioning, saying they could have answered questions as free men, and stressed they remained innocent until proven guilty.

- Godreche: 'I'm crying' -

Godreche on Monday wrote on Instagram that she was deeply moved.

"I'm 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.

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.

The head of France's top cinema institution, Dominique Boutonnat, stepped down on Friday after he was convicted of sexually assaulting his godson in 2020.

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

And cinema legend Gerard Depardieu, 75, put his career on hold last autumn after a string of accusations against him, all of which he denies.

He is to stand trial in October accused of sexually assaulting two women, and also risks a second trial after he was charged in 2020 with the rape of an actor in 2018 when she was 22 and anorexic.