Paris, France – The entire leadership of the Césars, the most prestigious movie award ceremony in France, has resigned over the months-long scandal and controversy surrounding French-Polish director Roman Polanski.
France’s Cesar Academy resigns en masse
“To honour those who made films in 2019, to regain serenity and make the cinema festival a celebration, the board of directors made a unanimous decision to resign”, the Film Academy announced in a statement, just days before the 45th awards ceremony to be held on February 28 in Paris.
Polanski launched his new film An Officer and a Spy (J’Accuse, in French) – centered around the famous Dreyfus affair when a French Jewish officer was unfairly accused of spying for Germany in the 1890s – late last year, only a few days after a French photographer accused him of having raped her in 1975 when she was 18 years old, during a ski holiday in Switzerland. Polanski has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Since then, rights organizations, feminist activists and other prominent figures of French cinema called to boycott Polanski and his new movie. Outrage within French cultural circles only grew after Polanski’s movie received 12 nominations, leading the 2020 awards ceremony.
New Polanski movie leads Cesar 2020 nominations despite scandal
“We’re in shock that Roman Polanski, who’s accused by several women of pedophile rape crime, is yet again hailed by French cinema”, said Céline Piques from French feminist organization ‘Osez le Féminisme’. Hundreds of actors, directors and producers also called in an open letter to reform France’s Cesar Academy, criticizing its “dysfunctions” and “opaqueness”. The Academy defended itself, arguing it “should not take moral positions” when choosing the nominations or giving the awards.
In an exclusive interview with Paris Match last December, Polanski was keen to distance himself from the escalating scandal, arguing he had grown “a thick skin” after facing so many attacks over the past five decades.
The French-Polish award-winning director, who fled the U.S. in the 1970s after being convicted of the rape of a 13-year-old girl, has since then faced other sexual assault and misconduct accusations. He was expelled from the U.S. Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in 2018.
Winner of the Oscar for Best Director for his 2002 Holocaust-set masterpiece The Pianist, his 1964 movie Knife in the Water was one of the handful of Polish movies to ever be nominated for the Oscar of Best Foreign-Language Movie.
Main photo credit: Martin Bureau/AFP