Roman Polanski’s win at ‘French Oscars’ prompts protests and walkout

by on February 29, 2020

Fugitive director Roman Polanski’s win at France’s national cinema awards has been met with booing and a walkout by some actresses attending the ceremony in Paris.

Key points:

  • Polanski was named the Cesar awards best director for An Officer and a Spy
  • Actress Adele Haenel and others got up and walked out of the room in response
  • Polanksi did not attend the ceremony after earlier protests against his film’s 12 nominations
  • Polanski’s best director award for An Officer and a Spy was overshadowed by street clashes outside between police and women’s rights protesters.

The 86-year-old director has been a fugitive from the United States since 1977, after admitting unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

Polanski decided to skip the Cesar awards ceremony because of protests by women’s groups denouncing the 12 nominations the film received after a French woman brought a new rape accusation against him.

At the announcement of Polanski’s award as best director, boos emerged from the public composed of film teams and cinema professionals.

Actress Adele Haenel, who recently denounced an alleged sexual assault by another French director in the early 2000s when she was 15, got up and walked out of the room, followed by a few others.

The film’s cast and production team, including best actor nominee Jean Dujardin, also declined to attend the ceremony.

Dujardin posted a message on Instagram that said, “By making this film, I believed and I still believe I made more good than harm.”

Polanski’s film won two other awards for best costume design and best adaptation.

No-one came on stage to accept the trophies awarded to the film.

A close up shot of a grey-haired elderly man, wearing a suit, in a naturally lit room.

Instead, Foresti referred to the 86-year-old director as Atchoum — French for the Sneezy character in Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

“I decided that Atchoum would not be big enough to overshadow the French cinema,” she said.

The male-dominated leadership of the Cesar awards stepped down earlier this month amid disagreement over its decision-making structure and how to deal with controversy surrounding Polanski.

A few hundred protesters brandishing signs with phrases such as “Victims, we believe you” and “No to impunity” assembled outside the Salle Pleyel concert hall before the ceremony started.

“We are here, we are here, even if Polanski doesn’t want to, we are here,” the group chanted.

“By supporting the aggressors, by celebrating the aggressors, one does not allow the victims to speak out. Their word is denied,” Celine Piques of women’s activist group Osez le Feminisme said.

Polanski describes ceremony as ‘public lynching’

In a statement this week, the Paris-based Polanski said the ceremony was turning into a “public lynching” and that he decided not to attend the ceremony to protect his colleagues and his wife and children.

Polanski is still wanted in the US decades after he was charged with raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

He pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor but fled the country on the eve of sentencing.

Last year, a woman came forward to accuse Polanski of raping her in 1975 in his Swiss chalet when she was 18.

Polanski denied it, and the allegations are too old for an investigation, but the accusation put the director under fresh scrutiny in France, where he has long been revered as one of the country’s premier filmmakers despite the outstanding rape charge in the US.

He won his only Academy Award, best director for holocaust film The Pianist, 26 years after fleeing the country.

Other accusations have also emerged.

“Is it normal for a man to rape and then 30 years later to be a star in popular cultures? No, it’s not normal, and a rapist should be in prison,” another Osez le Feminisme activist, Fabienne El Khouri, said.

An Officer and a Spy is about the anti-Semitic persecution of French army Captain Alfred Dreyfus and his wrongful treason conviction in the 1890s.

The Cesar for best film was awarded to Les Miserables, Ladj Ly’s Oscar candidate, about tensions between police and minorities in a poor Paris suburb.

The film won the Jury Price at the Cannes Film Festival last year.


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