Several actresses walked out of the César awards in Paris last night after Roman Polanski, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, was awarded best director.
According to The Guardian, the announcement was followed by shouting and booing from the audience, and more than 100 protestors gathered outside the awards – France’s equivalent of the Oscars – to demonstrate against the controversial director receiving such an honour.
Polanski, who received 12 nominations this year, fled the US after his rape conviction but before sentencing in the 1970s. He has since faced other sexual assault accusations.
Portrait Of A Lady On Fire star Adèle Haenel, who has previously revealed she was sexually abused as a child by another director, was one of the women who left the ceremony after Polanski’s win was announced. The actor shouted “shame!” as she left, and was followed by director Céline Sciamma, BBC reports.
Actor and comedian Florence Foresti, who was hosting the event, also demonstrated her disapproval. She opened the awards evening with, “Predators, producers, gentlemen with an electronic bracelet…” and did not return to the stage after Polanski’s award. Later, she took to Instagram to voice how “disgusted” she was at Polanski’s win.
Hours before the ceremony, France’s culture minister Franck Riester expressed his opposition to Polanski winning the award, warning that it would send the wrong message. Riester said it would be “symbolically bad” for Polanski to win best director “given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence”.
France’s equality minister Marlène Schiappa previously condemned the decision to nominate Polanski at all, saying she found it “impossible that a hall gets up and applauds the film of a man accused of rape several times”.
Prior to the awards, Haenal, who was also nominated for a César this year, told the New York Times she would boycott the ceremony if Polanski attended. “Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” she said. “There is a #MeToo paradox in France: it is one of the countries where the movement was the most closely followed on social media, but from a political perspective and in cultural spheres, France has completely missed the boat.”
The Césars defended the nominations on the grounds that the body “should not take moral positions”. However, the controversy has reignited the debate over Polanski’s place in French cinema, and whether his work can or should be regarded separately from him.
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