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Feminist fury after Polanski film tops French' Oscar' nominations

In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 French Polish director Roman Polanski looks on on stage after the preview of his last movie "J'accuse" (An Officer and a Spy) in Paris
In this file photo taken on November 04, 2019 French Polish director Roman Polanski looks on on stage after the preview of his last movie "J'accuse" (An Officer and a Spy) in Paris Thomas SAMSON / AFP

Feminists have slammed a decision by France's film academy to nominate Roman Polanski's new film An Officer and a Spy for 12 nominations. The controversial director has been wanted in the US for statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl since 1978.

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"If rape was an art, give all the Cesars to Polanski," the French women's group, Osez le féminisme or "Dare to be feminists" tweeted on Wednesday.

The tweet came hours after France's Academy of Cinema Arts and Sciences announced Polanksi's nomination haul in the 45th edition of its César ceremony, the equivalent of the Oscars.

The controversial director's new film An Officer and a Spy (or J'accuse in French) earned nominations in 12 categories, including best film and best director.

The period drama about the Dreyfus affair is based on the infamous 19th Century case of French-Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus who was wrongly convicted for spying.

"By celebrating a fugitive rapist and child sex criminal, we silence the victims," added the feminist group, which said it would demonstrate outside the awards ceremony on 28 February.

Box office hit

The head of the French film academy Alain Terzian defended the decision to recognise Polanski saying the academy "should not take moral positions" about giving awards.

"Unless I'm wrong, 1.5 million viewers went to see his film."

Despite his words, hundreds of people took to Twitter to express their outrage and disbelief that Polanski had earned so many nominations.

British film critic Caspar Salmon was equally scathing.

"The Cesar awards are literally inviting an actor who was a victim of sexual assault by a director when she was a child (Adele Haenel), and a director who sexually abused a child (Roman Polanski), to be in the same room together for a big celebration of film."

Haenel, who revealed she was sexually harassed from the age of 12 on her first film last year, is nominated for best actress for her performance in Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

Venice film controversy

The anger over Polanski’s César nomination success comes in the wake of the controversy sparked by his victory at the Venice film festival where he scooped up awards for best director and the critics' prize.

Some screenings had to be cancelled after feminist protesters invaded or blockaded cinemas.

The publicity campaign for the film was also halted after French photographer Valentine Monnier claimed that she had also been raped by the director in 1975. Polanski has strongly denied the allegations.

The director -- who sparked uproar at Venice by comparing his "hounding" to the anti-Semitic persecution Dreyfus suffered -- blamed the disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein for his woes.

Oscars' snub

He said Weinstein had tried to brand him a "child rapist" to stop him winning an Oscar in 2003 for The Pianist.

Some observers have pointed out that Polanksi’s nominations for now are just that, nominations and may not transform into awards.

Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin, the star of Polanski's new film, is hot favourite to lift best actor in a race that also includes Vincent Cassel and Reda Kateb for the autism drama The Specials and Daniel Auteuil for La Belle Epoque.

In Hollywood where Polanski is persona non grata, the Oscars’ academy snubbed An Officer and a Spy in its nominations earlier this month, but gave another French film Les Miserables the thumbs up in the best foreign category.

The drama, set in the poor and restive poor suburbs picked up 11 Cesar nominations, just behind Polanski's film.

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