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FILM AWARDS

Polanski to stay away from Césars, fearing public lynching

Franco-Polish director Roman Polanski after the preview of his movie "J'accuse" (An Officer and a Spy) in Paris.
Franco-Polish director Roman Polanski after the preview of his movie "J'accuse" (An Officer and a Spy) in Paris. Thomas SAMSON / AFP

Film director Roman Polanski has confirmed that he will not attend the French equivalent of the Academy Awards, the Césars, to be handed out at a ceremony in Paris on Friday. This year's event, where Polanski's latest film is nominated in 12 categories, promises to be more than usually controversial.

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Franco-Polish film director Roman Polanski has announced that he will not attend the César awards – (the French Oscars) - on Friday 28 February, because he fears being "publically lynched".

The veteran is at the centre of a storm of protest after his new film about the Dreyfus affair, An Officer and a Spy, topped the list of nominations for the Cesar awards.

France's equality minister and feminists were outraged at the film's 12 nominations, given that Polanski is still wanted in the United States for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

"We know how this evening will unfold already," Polanski said in a statement.

"Activists are already threatening me with a public lynching, with some saying they are going to protest outside," the 87-year-old added.

"What place can there be in such deplorable conditions for a film about the defence of truth, the fight for justice, blind hate and anti-Semitism?"

Ceremony to go ahead despite mass resignation from the César academy

Friday's ceremony will be presided over by French actress Florence Foresti. She will present the awards just two weeks after the entire César's board resigned, following complaints from women's groups, politicians and movie industry personalities.

The French academy collapsed following a series of shocks, having notably been weakened by its embroilment in the affair involving 87-year-old filmmaker Polanski.

Polanski's latest film, An Officer and a Spy (the story of the Dreyfus Affair, originally released in French as J'accuse), is nominated for 12 awards. Feminist groups protested at cinemas screening the movie, and have announced their intention to demonstrate outside Friday's awards ceremony venue, the Salle Playel concert hall in central Paris.

Posters have already appeared on walls around the venue and outside the academy's Paris headquarters bearing the message "Rape-anski brings shame on the Césars".

In 2017 Polanski was forced to decline the academy's offer to lead the jury, following outrage from women's groups and government officials.

César academy refuses to take a "moral position"

The shortlisting of Polanski's film has been condemned by France's equality minister, by women's groups and film critics, but the academy said it could not be expected to take "moral positions" when awarding films.

Adding an additional pressure to this year's event is the fact that a film by director Céline Sciamma, Portrait de la jeune fille en feu or Portarit of a young girl on fire, is in second place with ten nominations. The central character is played by Adèle Haenel who, last November, stunned the French film industry by revealing that she had been sexually abused by a well-known director when she was a teenager.

Sciamma and her team have announced that they will attend in force.

In an open letter published on 11 February, more than 200 actors, producers, directors and movie personalities denounced the "dysfunction" at the academy, the "opacity" of its accounts, and the lack of change to its founding statutes.

Three days later the entire board of the César academy resigned.

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