Fearing ‘public lynching’, Polanski skips Césars night

Roman Polanski explique notamment qu’il doit « protéger sa famille, sa femme et ses enfants, à qui on fait subir injures et affronts ». LOIC VENANCE / AFP

Under-fire filmmaker Roman Polanski has announced he is skipping Friday’s awards ceremony for the Césars, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, saying he will not submit himself to a “public lynching” over rape accusations he denies.

Women’s rights activists have vowed to disrupt the awards ceremony in Paris, plastering anti-Polanski banners and graffiti at the event venue and the headquarters of the Film Academy, known as the Académie des Césars.

In a statement on Thursday, the Paris-based director said the ceremony was turning into a “public lynching”. Addressing the accusations of sexual assault levelled at him, he said, “Fantasies of unhealthy minds are now treated as proven facts.”

The 87-year-old director is still wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. More recently he has denied new rape allegations from photographer Valentine Monnier, who says he raped her at his Swiss chalet in 1975.

“We know ahead of time how this evening will play out,” Polanski, who has dual French and Polish citizenship, wrote in his statement.

His decision to skip the event marks the latest dramatic twist in a month-long saga that has rattled the film academy. It comes two weeks after the academy’s entire board resigned amid a row over its byzantine decision-making structure and the Polanski spat.

Both Polanski and the academy were at the centre of a storm of protest last month after the director’s new film about the Dreyfus affair, “An Officer and a Spy”, topped the list of nominations for the César awards, which will be presented on Friday night.

The film, which won two awards at the Venice Film Festival, including best director, has been a box office hit at home, despite a wave of protests that saw some screenings cancelled after protesters invaded or blockaded cinemas.

Its inclusion on the Césars shortlist prompted condemnation from France’s equality minister, women’s groups and some film critics.

At the time, director Alain Terzian had justified the academy’s choice by saying it “should not take moral positions” about giving awards. He has since resigned, along with the rest of the board.

The row comes as French cinema has belatedly begun its own reckoning of sex abuse allegations in the film industry, spurred on by the likes of actress Adèle Haenel, who touched a nerve last autumn when she opened up about the sexual harassment she endured while shooting her first film, aged 12.

In an interview with the New York Times this week, Haenel said France had “completely missed the boat” on the #MeToo movement, failing to draw a line between “libertine behaviour” and “sexual abuse”.

“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” she said, in a warning to those in the film academy who planned to vote for his film. “It means raping women isn’t that bad.”

Source: France 24, Le Monde