About 40 women protesting the opening of a retrospective of the works of Roman Polanski gathered in front of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris tonight. French feminist organization Osez le Féminisme, which had established a petition against Polanski’s appearance, was joined by members of a similar association, La Barbe, making good on a promise to demonstrate at the event that Polanski attended.
So did members of Femen, an international women’s movement of female activists notorious for topless protests. Facebook video shows two members of the group made it into the lobby as Polanski was entering the auditorium where his latest film, Based On A True Story, was to be screened. Chanting “No honor for rapists,” they were removed by security.
Polanski has been wanted in the U.S. for 40 years over a 1977 child sex conviction, and another woman came forward this month alleging he raped her in 1972 when she was underage. Three other woman have also recently claimed Polanski molested them, leading to calls he should be kicked out of any professional cinema organizations. Earlier this year, he pulled out of attending the César Awards after an outcry from women’s groups.
The Osez le Féminisme petition had claimed Polanski’s appearance would be “indecent” and insulting to all the victims of sexual harassment mobilized by the recent #metoo online campaign, and amid the Harvey Weinstein scandal. “It’s an affront to all rape victims, and particularly Polanski’s victims,” the petition read. “Polanski deserves dishonor, not honors.”
Polanski has lived in Europe since fleeing the U.S. He holds dual citizenship in France and Poland, residing primarily in France which prohibits extradition of its citizens. Outside the Cinémathèque tonight, protesters carried placards and chanted, “Extradition.”
Neither the Cinémathèque nor France’s Culture Minister would be led into the polemic in recent days. Culture Minister Françoise Nyssen on Friday told France Inter radio that the retrospective was about “a body of work, not the man. It is not for me to condemn a body of work.”
Filmmaker Costa-Gavras, who is head of the Cinémathèque, had issued a statement to the media that the role of the institution is not to moralize or “take the place of the justice system… We have nothing to discuss with the people demanding that La Cinémathèque Française abandons its fundamental mission: To tirelessly show the works of great filmmakers.”
Courting further controversy, the Cinémathèque is planning a preview of Jean-Claude Brisseau’s latest film, Que Le Diable Nous Importe, in January. In 2005, the director was convicted on sexual harassment charges and given a one-year suspended sentence.
At about 9 PM local time, the crowd outside the Cinémathèque began to disperse, France24 reported from the scene.