France’s César Awards are the countries own version of the Oscars, and are viewed as such by viewers every year. Like the Oscars here in America, the César Awards have been rooted in controversy and political unrest throughout the build up to the ceremony itself. Things reached a boiling point when convicted rapist and disgraced director, Roman Polanski was not only still nominated for a whopping 12 awards at this year’s event, but he ended up winning as well, prompting multiple actors and individuals within the industry to walk out of the arena where the ceremony was held.
Before the award show even aired, the entire board of individuals who oversee the ceremonies inner workings abruptly resigned, in response to the 12 nominations, claiming that his inclusion in the event in 2020 knowing all we do now is an indication of the academy’s “opaque decision-making process.” Polanski’s 12 nominations for his newest film “An Officer and A Spy” made him the most nominated individual at this year’s César Awards as well.
“To honor the men and women who made cinema happen in 2019, to find calm and ensure that the festival of film remains just that, a festival, the board … has decided to resign unanimously. This collective decision will allow complete renewal,” the academy said in a statement.
Polanski himself didn’t attend the ceremony out of “fear of a public lynching.” Protesters began lining up outside of the César Awards early in the morning in order to express their massive anger at a convicted rapist still being acknowledged by a powerful group of individuals who are meant to uphold the sanctity of cinema.
Beyond just civilian protests, when it was announced that Polanski won best director for the film, actors and industry workers alike walked out of the award show in disgust, including actor Adèle Haenel, who was also nominated for her performance in Céline Sciamma’s “Portrait of a Lady on Fire.”
As she and others were exiting it appeared that they were yelling “shame” and pointing at the stage. Footage of Haenel in the lobby of the Salle Pleyel, where the ceremony was held, shows her clapping while yelling “Bravo, pedophilia!” in a now viral clip circulating the internet.
Adèle Haenel and Noémie Merlant
Haenel was joined by her “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” co-star Noémie Merlant and cinematographer Claire Mathon in the walk-out, as well as others. Haenel in general is one of the first major actors in France to speak out about sexual harassment/misconduct in the industry in Europe specifically. She’s been candid with the public in the past about her own unfortunate experience being abused by director Christophe Ruggia when she was just 12-years-old; Ruggia has since been arrested and charged by French authorities for “sexual aggression against a minor by a person of authority and sexual harassment.”
Before the award ceremony Haenel discussed Polanski’s nomination with The New York Times stating: “Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn’t that bad. It [France] is one of the countries where the movement [referring to the #MeToo movement in America] was the most closely followed on social media, but from a political perspective and in cultural spheres, France has completely missed the boat.”
Roman Polanski was initially charged with unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor back in 1977 but fled from the United States to France to avoid conviction. Polanski’s been accused multiple times of sexual misconduct and assault, and convicted, so his inclusion and ability to still work within such a powerful and lucrative industry is more than disappointing.
However, the protesters outside the event and Haenel’s walkout were praised by many in Hollywood, including social media responses Rose McGowan, who tweeted, “You have both done it. You are breaking the French system. Keep going.”
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.