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Paris (AFP) – French director Catherine Corsini dismissed claims about on-set harassment and the presence of a child in a sex scene on Tuesday following criticism over her inclusion in the Cannes Film Festival.


In a statement, Corsini and her producer Elisabeth Perez addressed criticisms that a 15-year-old actress was used in a sex scene in their new film, “The Return”, which is competing at next month’s festival.

“Stop the fantasies! The teenagers were dressed and only their faces were filmed in the scene. There was no inappropriate touching or contact between them,” they said.

The actress herself, Esther Gohourou, was included in the statement, saying she had been repeatedly offered a double or an intimacy coach and refused.

“We talked a lot before doing the scene, we knew what we were going to shoot, that we would only see the faces and that we would not have to touch each other for real,” she said.

However, the producers recognised that they failed to alert French film authorities about the scene beforehand, and that this “administrative failure” led to a loss of state funding.

Paris prosecutors say a complaint was received in November and is being investigated.

The filmmakers also dismissed complaints of abusive behaviour by Corsini that had been reported in the press, saying no charges had been brought against her.

There had been criticism from a union and French film professionals over the festival’s late decision to include “The Return”, which was held back until Monday while the organisers investigated the complaints.

“It is fortunate that the biggest festival in the world has taken the time to thoroughly verify the truth,” the filmmakers said. “Any other decision would have set a serious precedent for auteur cinema and for the event itself.”

Corsini’s inclusion extends the record number of women competing for the top prize Palme d’Or to seven (out of 21 entries). The previous record of five was set last year.

This year’s festival, running May 16-27, features premieres for the new Indiana Jones and Pixar movies, as well as the latest from Martin Scorsese, “Killers of the Flower Moon”.

Opening the festival is Johnny Depp’s comeback film, “Jeanne du Barry”, whose French director Maiwenn is under investigation for allegedly assaulting a journalist.