One of the world's most prominent film festivals is taking a step to curtail sexual harassment and assault in light of the #MeToo movement. According to People, the Cannes Film Festival has created a sexual misconduct hotline that victims and witnesses can call to report abuse during the 10-day event when it begins in May. French equality minister Marlene Schiappa announced the hotline with a statement to Agence France-Presse, a French news outlet. In her announcement Schiappa pointed to an unfortunate history of assault allegedly taking place at the annual festival.
"We have set up a partnership with the Cannes Film Festival to tackle sexual harassment," Schiappa said on Thursday. The minister added, "One of the rapes that Harvey Weinstein is accused of happened at Cannes, and so the festival cannot not act."
Shiappa informed AFP that the hotline was being created to help protect both actors and all other women working in the film industry.
Warning: This article contains information about rape and sexual assault, which some may find triggering.
The announcement comes 21 years after Weinstein allegedly raped xXx actor Asia Argento in his hotel room in France during the 1997 Cannes Film Festival. At the time of the festival Argento was 21 years old and Weinstein, through his production company at the time Miramax, was distributing her movie B. Monkey.
Weinstein has denied all allegations of sexual assault and claims of non-consensual sexual encounters.
Argento told Ronan Farrow in his October 2017 New Yorker exposé on Weinstein's alleged history of sexual misconduct, that in his hotel room he forced her to receive oral sex from him. "It wouldn’t stop," she said. "It was a nightmare.” She added, "I was not willing.”
Over 60 women have accused the movie mogul of sexual harassment and misconduct, including actors like Angelina Jolie, Ashley Judd, Kate Beckinsale, and Gwyneth Paltrow. Weinstein is currently under investigation on sexual assault allegations in Los Angeles and New York.
Argento was not the only woman who alleged sexual misconduct from Weinstein at Cannes. In Vanity Fair's comprehensive list of all the women who have accused the producer, four others mention harassment and misconduct at the festival. Alice Evans (102 Dalmatians) claimed he attempted to follow her into a bathroom and propositioned her, while French actor Judith Godrèche claimed he invited her into his hotel room and asked to give her a massage. Model Zoë Brock alleged she also received a massage proposition in a hotel room from Weinstein and he left the room only to allegedly reappear naked. Annabella Sciorra (The Sopranos) told the New Yorker that years after Weinstein allegedly raped her in her New York City apartment, the producer allegedly came to her hotel room at Cannes "in his underwear, holding a bottle of baby oil in one hand and a tape, a movie, in the other."
The allegations extended to other film festivals, as well. One of Weinstein's most high-profile accusers, Rose McGowan, claims Weinstein assaulted her in a hotel room in Park City, Utah in 1997, while they were both there for the annual Sundance Film Festival. (Weinstein has denied McGowan's claims in separate statements.) Erika Rosenbaum also claims Weinstein assaulted her at the Toronto International Film Festival.
If the Cannes hotline proves to be successful, either for deterring would-be aggressors or for catching misconduct perpetrators, it will be interesting to see if other film and culture festivals follow suit with similar precautions. Though Weinstein has been driven from Hollywood, many other men in the industry have been accused of similar crimes. If this stops predators and makes women feel more safe then it could be worth adapting in other venues.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, call the National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline at 800-656-HOPE (4673) or visit online.rainn.org.