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Leading French TV and filmmaking figures – including actress Juliette Binoche and director Michel Hazanavicius – have addressed President Emmanuel Macron in an open letter, decrying the controversial pension reform plans that have sparked angry protests across the country.

The petition was published by the newspaper Liberation on Wednesday.

The artists have joined the mass opposition to the pension bill that would see the retirement age in France increase from 62 to 64. The petition calls the change "unfair, ineffective, affecting the most precarious and women the hardest, rejected by the vast majority of the population, and even a minority in the National Assembly." The French celebrities are demanding an "immediate withdrawal" of the measure.

Special attention was drawn to the "impact of the reform on artists and filmmakers." In particular, the text cites surveys that show that "roles are offered more rarely to women past the age of 50" and thus the new retirement age would put actresses in a more vulnerable position.

The letter was originally signed by 300 French actors, singers and filmmakers, but had gathered over 1,800 signatures on the Change.org website as of Saturday.

Binoche is one of the biggest names among those who signed the petition. Her acting career spans over 40 years and she has appeared in more than 60 feature films. Apart from multiple French film awards, Binoche also won a prestigious Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in 1997 for her role in The English Patient. Similarly, another signatory to the letter, Michel Hazanavicius won the Academy Award for Best Director in 2011 for his film The Artist.

Demonstrations against the French pension reform bill have been taking place since January, when the bill was still a work-in-progress. Over one million protesters took to the streets on Thursday, according to the French Interior Ministry, following last week’s decision by the Macron government to use executive privilege to pass the pension reform without a parliamentary vote.

The situation has escalated to clashes between the protesters and police, drawing concerns from the Council of Europe’s human rights commissioner.

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