March 2 ------ Several actresses have walked out of the Cesar Awards ceremony in Paris after Roman Polanski, who is facing a historical sex assault claim against him, won best director. Polanski, 86, whose film An Officer And A Spy also picked up two other awards, was not at the event on Friday evening, saying earlier that he feared for his and his family's safety.
In a statement this week, the French-Polish director said the ceremony was turning into a "public lynching". Among the actresses who left the venue in protest was Adele Haenel, who last year revealed she had been sexually abused as a child by another director. The Portrait of A Lady On Fire star told the New York Times before the ceremony that France had "missed the boat" on #MeToo and criticized the Cesars for recognizing Polanski. "Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn't that bad," she said.
Earlier this month, the entire Cesar board resigned en masse after weeks of controversy over Polanski's film. The largely-male board of academy directors said the unanimous decision was made in a bid to "honor those who made films in 2019, to regain serenity and make the cinema festival a celebration". As the biggest names in French film arrived at Paris' Pleynel concert hall, an anti-Polanski protest was held nearby. Some demonstrators clashed with police while others peacefully waved placards criticizing "an industry that protects rapists".
Last year, a French actress accused Polanski of raping her in 1975 when she was 18 years old, during a ski holiday in Gstaad, Switzerland. Polanski has denied the accusation. The director also fled the US after pleading guilty in 1977 to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles. It comes in the same week that movie producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted for sexual assault and rape, which marked a milestone for the #MeToo movement. Polanski has previously pointed the finger at Weinstein for whipping up negative publicity about him in a bid to prevent his 2003 film The Pianist winning an Oscar.