Québec Cinéma may change the name of its annual Jutra awards gala in the wake of published claims that the prominent filmmaker Claude Jutra had sex with underage boys.

The actor, writer and filmmaker committed suicide in 1986 after learning that he had Alzheimer's disease. He was 56.

A new biography by Yves Lever released Tuesday includes four pages of testimony from unnamed friends of Jutra who allege he slept with 14- and 15-year-old boys, and possibly one as young as 13.

There are no interviews with alleged victims.

Ségolène Roederer, the executive director of Québec Cinéma, said the agency has formed a committee to look into the allegations in the book.


Claude Jutra, an actor, writer and filmmaker, is considered a key figure in Quebec cinema. (Radio-Canada)

"There is a lot of hearsay but no facts," said Roederer. "No witnesses or actual accusations."

The author said he conducted more than 30 interviews in researching his book. He said five or six people who were "very close" to Jutra corroborated specific incidents of Jutra's involvement with a series of underage boys.

"The main victim did not want to speak to me," despite several requests, Lever told Radio-Canada's Alain Gravel.

Jutra is considered so important a figure in the history of the province's film industry that Quebec's annual film awards gala — and the trophies themselves — were named after him almost 20 years ago.

Winning a Jutra is considered highly prestigious.

Roederer said her organization faces "a tight deadline" to decide whether to keep Jutra's name on the award show because this year's ceremony is scheduled for March 20.

The Toronto-based Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television also offers a single Claude Jutra Award at its annual Canadian Screen Awards gala.

'His work will remain'

Despite the controversy over his sexual predilections, Roederer said her organization stands by Jutra's body of work.

"The oeuvre exists and will remain an incomparable and exceptional work," she said. "His work will remain. Regardless of what comes of the (allegations), it won't be the first time that an artist's work is effectively separated from their personal life."

Québec Cinéma says it will follow the case and make recommendations if more information comes to light.

Quebec Culture Minister Hélène David called the allegations troubling but said people should not rush to judgment without all the facts.

Jutra's best-known films include Mon oncle Antoine and Kamouraska — the latter starring Geneviève Bujold.

with files from Canadian Press