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On the Monday following the publication of a long accusatory article on the French news site Médiapart, filmmaker Christophe Ruggia was fired from the SRF (Société des réalisateurs de films) directors’ association that he co-presided over for several years.
The association created the Cannes Directors’ Fortnight and is currently chaired by filmmakers like Jacques Audiard, Bertrand Bonello and Portrait of a Lady on Fire director Céline Sciamma. This is the first time in its 50-year history that the association has removed one of its members.
In a statement published on SRF’s Twitter account earlier in the day, the association offered “total support” for actress Adèle Haenel, who in a lengthy Médiapart investigation accused Ruggia of sexually harassing her for several years after she was cast as the 12-year-old star of his 2002 sophomore feature, The Devils (Les diables). Ruggia has denied all allegations.
“We have started a procedure to remove Ruggia from the SRF,” the post reads, stating the association “expresses total support, admiration and recognition of actress Adèle Haenel, who had the courage to speak up after so many years of silence.”
The Médiapart article describes, sometimes in crude detail, how Haenel, then 12, was cast by Ruggia, then 36, as the female lead in a film about two troubled young lovers that also starred actor Vincent Rottiers. According to the article, the writer-director soon became infatuated with his actress, spending inordinate amounts of time with her both on and off the set.
According to Haenel, Ruggia would invite her over to his apartment to watch movies, and on one occasion kissed her neck and tried to grope her. During a promotional tour for The Devils in 2002, which included premieres in Yokohama, Marrakech and Bangkok, Ruggia allegedly made several passes at the actress and confessed his love for her. He can be seen in photos from the tour with his arm around the 13-year-old Haenel’s waist.
Ruggia only made one feature following The Devils, the 2011 thriller In Turmoil, but remained a very active board member of the SRF, which he co-presided over five times between 2006 and 2018. The 54-year-old director has been an outspoken supporter of left-wing causes in France, backing the SRF’s own pronouncements against sexual harassment and its calls for more inclusion in the French film industry.
Haenel, now 30, starred in three movies that premiered in Cannes in May: Sciamma’s best screenplay winner Portrait of a Girl on Fire, which is set to be released by Hulu in December; Quentin Dupieux’s Deerskin; and Aude Léa Rapin’s Heroes Don’t Die.
By revealing her story to Médiapart, Haenel said she hoped to help other victims of sexual violence: “I want to tell them that they’re right to feel bad, to think that it’s not normal to endure this, but also that they’re not alone and that one can survive.”
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