Walkout as Polanksi wins best director at Césars

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-51684494

Roman Polanski on stage after the preview of his film in November 2019Image copyright
AFP

Image caption

Another woman accused Polanski of rape in November

Several actresses have walked out of the César awards ceremony in Paris after Roman Polanski, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13 year old in 1977, won best director.

The awards – France’s equivalent of the Oscars – have been mired in controversy after Polanksi’s An Officer and a Spy received 12 nominations.

The Polish-French director fled the US after his rape conviction in the 1970s.

He has since faced other accusations of sexual assault.

An Officer and a Spy, or J’accuse in French, is about the Dreyfus affair in 19th Century France and won a total of three awards.

Polanski did not attend the event, having said earlier that he feared for his safety.

Actress Adèle Haenel, who has said she was sexually abused as a child by another director, was one of the women who walked out of the ceremony after Polanski’s win was announced.

Protesters gathered outside of the venue ahead of the awards.

The decision to honour Polanski at this year’s awards had angered feminist groups and led to calls for a boycott.

The César’s entire board resigned earlier this month amid the backlash. A general meeting is set to be held after the ceremony to elect a new board, which will look at implementing reforms and modernising the institution.

France’s equality minister, Marlène Schiappa, had previously condemned the decision to nominate Polanski’s film, saying she found it “impossible that a hall gets up and applauds the film of a man accused of rape several times”.

But the Césars defended the nominations, arguing that the body “should not take moral positions” in giving awards.

What’s the background?

In September, Polanski’s film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival.

Two months later, however, French former actress Valentine Monnier accused Polanksi of an “extremely violent” assault and rape in 1975, when she was aged 18, in the latest in a series of sexual assault accusations against the director.

Monnier said that the release of Polanski’s most recent film had prompted her to speak out.

This is not the first time the César awards have faced controversy because of Polanski. In 2017, he was picked to head the awards’ jury, but later stepped down after the move sparked outrage.

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Media captionSamantha Geimer was raped by Polanski when she was 13

Despite the controversy surrounding the film, J’accuse was a box office hit in France at the end of 2019 and has done well in several other European countries.

Polanski has French and Polish citizenship, and has evaded various extradition attempts by US authorities.

France – where he lives – does not extradite its own citizens. A Polish court also rejected a US request when he was filming in Krakow in 2015.

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