Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - French Oscars controversy: Walkouts as Roman Polanski wins best director in Paris




French Oscars controversy: Walkouts as Roman Polanski wins best director in Paris

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
The ongoing controversy around director Roman Polanski and his alleged rape came to head as protesters both inside and outside made their feelings heard. AFP

French Oscars controversy: Walkouts as Roman Polanski wins best director in Paris

Roman Polanski won best director for An Officer and a Spy at a fractious ceremony for the French Oscars, the Cesars, that ended in walkouts and recrimination in Paris early on Saturday.

The entire French academy had been forced to resign earlier this month amid fury that the veteran, wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, had topped the list of nominations.

Protesters chanting “Lock up Polanski!” tried to storm the theatre where the ceremony was being held before being pushed back by police firing tear gas.

And France’s Culture Minister Franck Riester had warned that giving the maker of Rosemary’s Baby a Cesar would be “symbolically bad given the stance we must take against sexual and sexist violence”.

But Polanski won two awards, best adapted screenplay and best director with the latter prompting Adele Haenel, who was nominated for best actress for Portrait of a Lady on Fire, to storm out, crying “Shame!”

Haenel has become a hero of the #MeToo movement in France after accusing the director of her first film, Christophe Ruggia, of sexually harassing her when she was only 12.

Polanski’s film also picked up best costume design.

‘Public lynching’

“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” Haenel had said in the run-up to the Cesars.

“It means raping women isn’t that bad.”

Polanski, 86, and the entire team of his historical drama had boycotted the ceremony, fearing a “public lynching”.

An Officer and a Spy is based on the Dreyfus affair which divided France in the late 19th century when a Jewish army officer was wrongly prosecuted for spying.

“What place can there be in such deplorable conditions for a film about the defence of truth, the fight for justice, [against] blind hate and anti-Semitism?” the director said.

Polanski’s epic, which won two top prizes at the Venice film festival last year, was in the running in 12 categories at the Cesars.

But the big winner on the night was the Oscar-nominated Les Miserables, set in one of France’s deprived and restive suburbs.

It took best film and three other prizes including the audience award.

Its Mali-born director Ladj Ly made an appeal for unity on a highly fraught night, saying “our enemy is not the other, but poverty”.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Roman Polanski won best director for An Officer and a Spy at a fractious ceremony for the French Oscars, the Cesars, that ended in walkouts and recrimination in Paris early Saturday. AFP

Poisonous atmosphere

Papicha, a touching story of Algerian women fighting for their freedom by Mounia Meddour, also fared well, winning both best first film and best female newcomer for actress Lyna Khoudri.

With the French film industry at war with itself over Polanski, Hollywood star Brad Pitt also snubbed the event having reportedly been offered an honorary award.

The French press had dubbed the event “The Cesars of Anguish”, with Le Parisien daily mocking up a movie poster of Hitchcock’s Vertigo.

And the ceremony lived up to its billing.

The poisonous atmosphere had already worsened on the eve of the awards when 30 film figures from minority backgrounds lashed the lip service they claimed the industry plays to inclusion.

Casual racism

In blistering open letter they said black, North African and Asian-origin performers are mostly confined to stereotypical bit parts in French films.

On the night, 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.

But it was the absent figure of Polanski which caused most unease, with a presenter only daring to mumble his name when he opened the envelope for his first win.

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.

But that did not stop it becoming a box office hit in France.

Polanski had said that he had decided to stay away from the ceremony 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.

MOST VIEWED

  • ‘Kingdom one of safest to visit in Covid-19 era’

    The Ministry of Tourism on January 12 proclaimed Cambodia as one of the safest countries to visit in light of the Kingdom having been ranked number one in the world by the Senegalese Economic Prospective Bureau for its success in handling the Covid-19 pandemic. In rankings

  • Ministry mulls ASEAN+3 travel bubble

    The Ministry of Tourism plans to launch a travel bubble allowing transit between Cambodia and 12 other regional countries in a bid to resuscitate the tourism sector amid crushing impact of the ongoing spread of Covid-19, Ministry of Tourism spokesman Top Sopheak told The Post on

  • Kingdom accepts Chinese vaccine, PM first to get jab

    Prime Minister Hun Sen said China would offer Cambodia an immediate donation of one million doses of the Covid-19 vaccine produced by the Sinopharm company. In an audio message addressing the public on the night of January 15, he said Cambodia has accepted the offer and

  • Reeling in Cambodia’s real estate sector

    A new norm sets the scene but risks continue to play out in the background A cold wind sweeps through the streets of Boeung Trabek on an early January morning as buyers and traders engage in commerce under bright blue skies. From a distance, the

  • Quarantine site in north Phnom Penh inaugurated

    A four-building quarantine centre in Phnom Penh’s Prek Pnov district was formally inaugurated on January 6. The centre can house up to 500 people, according to Phnom Penh municipal governor Khuong Sreng. At the inauguration ceremony, Sreng said the municipal hall had cooperated with the Ministry

  • ‘Beware of WhatsApp fraudsters’

    The Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications warned members of the public who use WhatsApp to vigilantly guard against a new trick employed by hackers that involves the use of six-digit codes sent to potential victims via the popular messaging app. The ministry said hackers could