Filmmaker Roman Polanski, whose An Officer And A Spy leads nominations for France’s César Awards, has said he will not attend the prize ceremony tomorrow night. In a statement to Agence France Presse, Polanski said, “For several days, people have been asking me if I will or won’t be coming to the ceremony. The question is more so: How could I?… Activists are threatening me with a public lynching. Some have called for demonstrations, others are planning to make it a platform… This promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema designed to reward its greatest talents.”
Polanski’s move to sit out the Césars, France’s equivalent to the Oscars, is not wholly a surprise. While Dreyfus Affair drama An Officer And A Spy won the Grand Jury Prize in Venice last year, its 12 nominations in France have been met with strong reaction. Earlier this month, a group of nine feminist associations called upon voting members of the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma not to mark their ballots for the film and vowed to protest the ceremony which takes place in Paris on Friday.
Polanski also told AFP today that he regretted making the decision to “not face a self-proclaimed court of opinion ready to trample on the principles of the rule of law so that the irrational triumphs once again.”
The Oscar winner has for decades lived in France after fleeing the United States on the eve of final sentencing in a statutory rape case. He has continued to make films here, but in the #MeToo era, and amid a more recent allegation (which he has denied), he has become an increasingly controversial figure. An Officer And A Spy had a successful box office run in France, but it also drew protesters to a premiere screening back in November. On Wednesday, posters denouncing Polanski were plastered on the front of the Salle Pleyel, where the Césars will take place, and the Académie’s headquarters.
The Académie has recently been under fire from its own membership for a lack of transparency and what they call an “elitist and closed” system in whose operations they have “no voice.” The group’s board said on February 13 that it was resigning en masse to “allow for the complete renewal of the Association’s management.”
Yesterday, the parent organization, the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, named producer Margaret Menegoz (Amour) as its interim president.