Asia Argento delivers searing speech calling Cannes festival Weinstein's 'hunting ground'

“And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women," she added.
by Daniella Silva /  / Updated 
Image: Italian actress Asia Argento gestures on stage on May 19, 2018 during the closing ceremony of the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France.
Italian actress Asia Argento gestures on stage on May 19, 2018 during the closing ceremony of the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France.Valery Hache / AFP - Getty Images

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Asia Argento, the Italian actress and director who has accused Harvey Weinstein of sexual assault, delivered a searing speech at the close of the Cannes Film Festival on Saturday. It took aim at the disgraced Hollywood mogul, those who allegedly enabled him and others who have yet to be exposed.

“In 1997, I was raped by Harvey Weinstein here at Cannes. I was 21 years old,” Argento said while presenting onstage during the festival’s closing ceremony on Saturday in France.

“This festival was his hunting ground,” she said.

Argento then predicted that Weinstein “will never be welcomed here ever again.”

“He will live in disgrace, shunned by a film community that once embraced him and covered up for his crimes,” she said.

Argento said that even at this year’s festival in the wake of the global #MeToo movement against sexual harassment and misconduct, other perpetrators were out there among the audience.

“And even tonight, sitting among you, there are those who still have to be held accountable for their conduct against women, for behavior that does not belong in this industry, does not belong in any industry or work place," she said.

“You know who you are, but most importantly — we know who you are and we're not going to allow you to get away with it any longer,” she said, drawing applause from the crowd.

The speech came a week after 82 women filmmakers took to the steps of the Palais des Festival to denounce gender inequality in the industry.

Eight-two represents the number of films by female directors who have been invited to compete at the festival in its 70 year history. In the same span of time, 1,688 male directors have been represented at the festival, actress Cate Blanchett said during the demonstration.

Filomena Cusano, who is Weinstein’s attorney in Italy, said she was at the festival when Argento spoke and the allegations “are completely false.”

“Mr. Weinstein and Ms. Argento had a consensual relationship; Ms. Argento then starred in Mr. Weinstein’s film B. Monkey in 1998, in which Argento was excellent, and she herself said was a fantastic role for her,” Cusano said in a statement to NBC News.

“After that, she wrote a script for Mr. Weinstein about Italian director Vittorio De Sica that he wishes could have been produced. This is clearly a painful moment for Ms. Argento, but it is a false narrative. Harvey has only respect for her and wishes her well,” Cusano added.

Organizers of the festival set up a telephone hotline for victims of sexual misconduct this year.

Argento alleged Weinstein assaulted her in a hotel room, an account that was first published in a bombshell Oct. 2017 New Yorker article about Weinstein’s history of alleged sexual misconduct.

“It wouldn’t stop. It was a nightmare,” Argento said of the assault.

Argento told The New Yorker that she did eventually yield to his further advances multiples times over the next five years after the alleged assault because she believed he would ruin her career if she didn’t and felt “obliged” to.

“After the rape, he won,” she said.

Since then, Weinstein has been accused of sexual misconduct by dozens of women. Representatives for Weinstein have repeatedly denied the allegations.

During the Women in the World Summit in New York this April, Argento said the #MeToo movement was “the most important thing that has happened to women since the right to vote.”

“And if we stop this conversation, then we’re really doomed,” she added. “It’s been the one chance I’ve had in my lifetime to advance the whole human species, because the betterment of the position of women in society is the betterment of the whole society, everybody will benefit from it.”

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