'France has missed boat' on #MeToo says star Haenel

Actress Adele Haenel puts France's political and cultural leaders in the dock for failing to take a clear stand against sexual abuse (AFP Photo/Gregg Deguire)
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Paris (AFP) - France has "completely missed the boat" on the #MeToo movement, the actress Adele Haenel said in an interview Monday.

The French star, who rocked the country last year when she said she was sexually harassed by the director of her first film when she was 12, told the New York Times that France's political and cultural leaders were in the dock.

"Many artists blurred, or wanted to blur, the distinction between sexual behaviour and abuse," said the actress.

"The debate was centred on the question of [men's] 'freedom to bother' women and on feminists' purported puritanism," she added, referring to a controversial open letter signed by French screen icon Catherine Deneuve attacking the #MeToo movement.

"But sexual abuse is abuse, not libertine behaviour," insisted Haenel, one of France's biggest female stars.

And the actress also turned her guns on the French Oscars, the Cesars, where Roman Polanski's "An Officer and a Spy" topped the nominations list with 12 nods.

"Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims," she said. "It means raping women isn't that bad."

The veteran director has been wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl since 1978 and is persona non grata in Hollywood.

Despite calls for a boycott, "An Officer and a Spy" has become a box office hit in France.

Even so Haenel, who is nominated for a best actress Cesar for her performance in "Portrait of a Lady on Fire", said "#MeToo has left its mark. France is boiling over with questions about it." she added.

"We have a justice system that doesn't make violence against women a priority," Haenel said.

"My case is now being treated in an ideal manner, with trained police and investigators who are attentive and well-meaning. I wish all survivors could have treatment like this."

Last month filmmaker Christophe Ruggia was charged with sexually assaulting Haenel when she was a minor.

Ruggia, 55, at first fiercely denied harassing Haenel before asking her to forgive him. He then said that she was targeting him because he denied her a part in another film.