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Director Roman Polanski picked up the Best Director honor at France’s Cesar Awards last night for his new film An Officer And A Spy. His win was met with protests immediately as some angry fans outside the venue held up signs demanding justice and more than a handful of celebrities at the ceremony got up and walked out including popular actress Adele Haenel, who has said she was sexually abused by a director between the ages of 12 and 15.
You can watch footage of the incident below. It picks up moments after Polanski’s win (he was not in attendance) and can be seen courtesy of Canal+…
Roman Polanski is probably best known to American audiences as the director of Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown and The Pianist, as well as the Sharon Tate’s husband when she was murdered by the Manson Family in 1969. He pled guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in the United States in 1977, but he fled for Europe prior to sentencing and has been considered a fugitive since. He’s continued making movies to various degrees of success in the ensuing decades.
As the MeToo movement has pushed sex crimes to the forefront of public conversation, the controversy surrounding him has gotten louder and louder. He was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018. After An Officer And A Spy picked up 12 Cesar nominations, many in France started pushing to reform how voting is done and even who is eligible to vote. The outcry ultimately resulted in the entire Board Of Directors for the Cesars resigning in mid-February, and even the Minister of Culture in France issued a statement, per CNN, saying a Polanski win for directing would send a negative message but that voters should separate the art and the artist in other categories like Best Film since so many people worked on the movie.
In a statement prior to the ceremony, Polanski said he would not attend because activists were threatening him with “a public lynching.” Following his win, several famous actresses in the French community came to his defense including Brigitte Bardot and Franny Ardant, the latter of whom said, among other things, “Long live freedom.” Many inside the ceremony, however, did not share those sentiments including host Florence Foresti who reportedly took several shots at the movie while on stage and even told the audience not to applaud for it. She later posted an Instagram Story that just said “Disgusting”.
It’s unclear what long-term ramifications the Cesar Awards might have for the French Film community. It’s likely we’ll continue to see a push toward a more inclusive base of voters, which will likely affect the type of films that get nominated.