Roman Polanski wins best director at fraught French Oscars
PARIS, France – Roman Polanski won the best director award for An Officer and a Spy at a fraught and fractious ceremony for the "French Oscars," the Cesars, in Paris early on Saturday, February 29.
The entire French academy had been forced to resign earlier this month amid fury at the veteran – wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977 – topping the list of nominations.
Actress Adele Haenel, who was nominated for best actress for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, stormed out of the theater in protest of Polanski's win.
The ceremony began late on Friday, February 28, in a poisonous atmosphere with Roman Polanski – whose new film had the highest number of nominations – staying away because he feared a "public lynching."
Protesters chanting "lock up Polanski!" tried to storm the Paris theater at which the ceremony was being held only to be pushed back by police.
Hours earlier France's Culture Minister Franck Riester said giving Polanski the best director prize for An Officer and a Spy would be "symbolically bad given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence".
With the French film industry at war with itself over honoring the controversial director, Hollywood star Brad Pitt also snubbed the event having reportedly been offered an honorary Cesar.
Polanski told AFP in an earlier report that he would stay away because "what place can there be in such deplorable conditions for a film about the defence of truth, the fight for justice, blind hate and anti-Semitism?"
His producer Alain Goldman said Friday that the film's entire team including its Oscar-winning star Jean Dujardin would also be boycotting the ceremony to show their outrage at the way Polanski had been "condemned in advance."
To make matters worse, on the eve of the awards, 30 cinema figures from minority backgrounds lashed the lip service they claimed the industry plays to inclusion in an open letter, saying black, North African and Asian-origin performers are mostly confined to stereotypical bit parts in French films.
The French press had called the ceremony as the most dramatic and divisive ever, with Le Figaro daily dubbing it "The Cesars of Anguish" and Le Parisien mocking up a movie poster for Hitchcock's Vertigo.
And it lived up to its billing, with one of the signatories of the letter, actress Aissa Maiga, delivering a scathing critique of casual racism in the industry as she presented the prize for best newcomer, including skewering presenter Florence Foresti for once donning blackface.
Stars under scrutiny
All eyes were on Haenel and her former partner Celine Sciamma, who directed Portrait of a Lady on Fire, which went up against Polanski's historical epic, and Les Miserables by Mali-born Oscar-nominated director Ladj Ly for best film. The award would ultimately go to Les Miserables.
The publicity campaign for Polanski's movie was halted last year after another woman, photographer Valentine Monnier, claimed that she had also been raped by the director in 1975.
The 87-year-old Polanski told AFP he was staying away to protect his family and his team from abuse.
"The activists brandish the figure of 12 women who I am supposed to have molested half a century ago," he said.
"These fantasies of sick minds are treated as established fact," he complained. – Rappler.com