Protesters at awards ceremony clash with police over Polanski

Film-maker already indicated intention not to attend at event, fearing a ‘public lynching’

An activist in full flight outside the Salle Pleyel in Paris as guests arrive for the 45th edition of the Cesar Film Awards. Photograph: AFP/Getty

An activist in full flight outside the Salle Pleyel in Paris as guests arrive for the 45th edition of the Cesar Film Awards. Photograph: AFP/Getty

 

French police clashed briefly on Friday with protesters over an awards ceremony in which a film by veteran director Roman Polanski, who is facing rape accusations, has won a dozen nominations.

Polanski (86) who fled the United States for France in the late 1970s after admitting raping a 13-year-old girl and faces more recent allegations of sexual assault, has already said he would not attend Friday’s ceremony, fearing a “public lynching”.

One group of protesters pulled down a barrier outside the Pleyel concert hall, where the Cesar Awards ceremony was taking place and tear gas hung in the air, but no protesters made it on to the red carpet, said a witness.

Polanski denies the latest accusations against him.

The nominations for An Officer and a Spy, including best film and best director, have split opinion in France, a country where the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment has struggled to gain traction.

The film’s cast and production team said they would boycott Friday’s Cesar Awards after the French culture minister earlier said the success of a director accused of sexual violence would send the wrong signal in the #MeToo era.

Feminists, numerous actresses and swathes of the public reacted with outrage after Polanski’s film emerged as a favourite to win best movie, prompting the management of the Cesar Academy to resign en masse earlier this month.

“It would send a bad message,” culture minister Franck Riester told franceinfo radio when asked about the prospect of Polanski scooping best director.

The film chronicles the persecution of French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus in the 1890s.

Film-maker Roman Polanski denies recent allegations of sexual assault. File photograph: Reuters
Film-maker Roman Polanski denies recent allegations of sexual assault. File photograph: Reuters
Members of the Colleuses Feministe collective waving a banner that reads ‘Polanski, Cesar of the Best Rapist 2020’. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Members of the Colleuses Feministe collective waving a banner that reads ‘Polanski, Cesar of the Best Rapist 2020’. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Protesters set off flares during a rally against controversial film director Roman Polanski who is nominated for the Cesar awards. Photograph: AFP/Getty
Protesters set off flares during a rally against controversial film director Roman Polanski who is nominated for the Cesar awards. Photograph: AFP/Getty

Producer Alain Goldman later criticised Mr Riester for making a “damning statement” without knowing the outcome of the secret vote for the Cesar Awards.

“Alas, despite the film’s 12 nominations at the 2020 awards, we have witnessed a surge in misplaced and violent comments and actions,” said Mr Goldman.

Actress Adele Haenel, who in late 2019 said she had been abused by another director as a child, told the New York Times that France had “missed the boat” on #MeToo and criticised the Cesar Awards for honouring Polanski.

“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn’t that bad.”

Polanski said he would not attend the ceremony because “activists are already threatening me with a public lynching”.

French photographer Valentine Monnier last year accused Polanski of raping her in 1975 when she was an 18-year-old model and actress. Polanski has denied the accusation.

Critics of the #MeToo movement in France say it is puritanical and fuelled by a hated of men.

Ahead of the Cesars, former French film star Brigitte Bardot rallied support for Polanski.

“We should be thankful that Polanski is alive and saving French cinema from mediocrity,” said Bardot. “I judge him by his talent, not his private life.” – Reuters