Wednesday 25 January 2017

Roman Polanski Drops Out From French Awards Ceremony

Roman Polanski

Roman Polanski has stepped down from presiding over next month’s César awards, France’s equivalent of the Opscars, after his nomination to the prestigious role sparked outrage, a 61,000-signature petition and calls to boycott the event.

The Franco-Polish film director, 83, is wanted in the US on charges of raping a a 13-year-old in Los Angeles in 1977.

On Tuesday, his lawyer told Agence France-Presse he would not preside over the Césars because of the “unjustified” row his role had caused.

Hervé Temime said the controversy had “profoundly saddened” the director of Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby. “However, in order not to disturb the César ceremony, which should focus on the cinema and not on the appointment of the president, Roman Polanski has decided not to accept the invitation.”

Polanski pleaded guilty in 1977 to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, or statutory rape, and as part of the plea bargain underwent psychiatric evaluation and served 42 days in prison. But in 1978 he became convinced a judge was going to quash the deal and hand him a hefty prison sentence, and fled to France.

Last month, Polanski defeated an attempt by the US to extradite him from his native Poland, telling reporters: “I’ll finally be able to feel safe in my own country.”

French actor and director Gilles Lellouche told Le Parisien the scandal over the Césars was “absurd”.

“In France we create rows about everything and it’s killing us. I believe we should be logical,” he said. “Polanski has lived in France for 40 years. The accusations against him predate his arrival. During those years he has made films! It was back then he should have been banned from living or working here.”

Another French actor, François Berléand, agreed: “I’m not defending what Polanski did 40 years ago, but he’s a man I profoundly respect and he has his role to play in the Césars.”

Feminist group Osez Le Féminisme (Dare to be Feminist) had called for a demonstration outside the Césars ceremony, organised by the Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques, on Saturday evening.

A petition claimed Polanski had enjoyed “scandalous protection” in France while being wanted for the rape of achild in America. His nomination as César president was, it said, “an insult to women and to the suffering they endure, an insult to rape victims … tens of thousands of them every year”.

Temime said the row had been “stoked by completely false information”. He added that the rape victim had appealed to the American authorities to drop the case.

France’s women’s rights minister, Laurence Rossignol, said she had been shocked by the decision to nominate Polanski.

“I’m surprised and shocked that a rape case in a man’s life counts for so little,” she told French radio. “It’s a choice that shows an indifference to the charges against him on the part of those who decided to nominate him as president of the Césars.

“It’s saying it’s not a big deal for the organisers, that Roman Polanski is wanted in the United States for having committed the rape … of a child of 13 years.”

The nomination showed an “attitude of normality with regard to rape … what feminists call the rape culture in which we are existing”, Rossignol said.

The culture minister, Audrey Azoulay, has refused to comment on the row.



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