Controversial director Roman Polanski is set to skip the César Awards — considered by many to be the French equivalent to the Oscars — because he’s afraid he’ll be attacked by protesters.
“Fantasies of unhealthy minds are now treated as proven facts,” Polanski, 86, said in a statement on Thursday. “We know how this evening will play out.”
Polanski’s latest film “An Officer and a Spy,” which is about the Dreyfus affair, garnered twelve nominations, including one for best film. It already won Best Director at the Venice Film Festival. However, women’s rights groups are livid that the film was bestowed so many nominations and have vowed to disrupt the ceremony.
France’s culture minister Franck Riester commented on the controversy telling France Info radio: “It’s for each judge to take responsibility. It would be a bad symbol given the necessary awareness we all need to have in the fight against sexual and gender-based violence.”
Polanski is still wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He pled guilty and while awaiting sentencing fled the country. The victim, Samantha Geimer has steadfastly defended Polanski and told reporters in 2017 that, “I was not as traumatized as everybody thought I should have been.” Last year French actress Valentine Monnier told Le Parisien that Polanski violently raped her when she was 18 in 1975 at a ski chalet in Gstaad, Switzerland. Several people corroborated her story, confirming that she had told them of the assault shortly afterward. Polanski denied the accusation.
Protesters are planning a demonstration outside the venue on Friday evening. Anti-Polanski graffiti has already been sprayed there and at the main office of the French film academy.
Adèle Haenel, who has been nominated and is the star of “Portrait of a Lady on Fire,” announced that she would boycott the gala if Polanksi was in attendance. She accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexual harassment that began when she was 12 years old and sexual assault when she was 15.
“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” Haenel, 31, told the New York Times.
The “Chinatown” auteur has been embroiled in controversy with the Césars before. In 2017, he was named to preside over the awards ceremony but was forced to step down after a flood of outrage.
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