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'Shame': Walkouts at French Oscars as Roman Polanski wins best director

Actor Adele Haenel led the walk-out after the 86-year-old director’s win at the César Awards.

Image: ABACA/PA Images

ROMAN POLANSKI WON best director for “An Officer and a Spy” at a fractious ceremony for the French Oscars, the Césars, that ended in walkouts and recrimination in Paris.

The entire French academy had been forced to resign earlier this month amid fury that the veteran – wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 – had topped the list of nominations.

Protesters chanting “Lock up Polanski!” tried to storm the theatre where the ceremony was being held before being pushed back by police firing tear gas.

And France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester had warned that giving the maker of “Rosemary’s Baby” a César would be “symbolically bad given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence”.

But Polanski won two awards, best adapted screenplay and best director – with the latter prompting Adele Haenel, who was nominated for best actress for “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, to storm out, crying “Shame!”

Haenel has become a hero of the #MeToo movement in France after accusing the director of her first film, Christophe Ruggia, of sexually harassing her when she was only 12.

She was followed out of the room by several others in the audience. 

‘Public lynching’ 

“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” Haenel had said in the run-up to the Césars.

“It means raping women isn’t that bad.”

Polanski, 86, and the entire team of his historical drama had boycotted the ceremony, fearing a “public lynching”.

“An Officer and a Spy” is based on the Dreyfus affair which divided France in the late 19th century when a Jewish army officer was wrongly prosecuted for spying.

“What place can there be in such deplorable conditions for a film about the defence of truth, the fight for justice, (against) blind hate and anti-Semitism?” the director told AFP.

Polanski’s film, which won two top prizes at the Venice film festival last year, was in the running in 12 categories at the Césars.

The big winner on the night was the Oscar-nominated “Les Miserables”, set in one of France’s deprived and restive suburbs.

It took best film and three other prizes including the audience award.

- © AFP 2020

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