In what felt like a statement against criticisms of the embittered French film academy, controversy magnet Roman Polanski won the Best Director prize at the 2020 César Awards in Paris on Friday for his Dreyfus Affair drama “An Officer and a Spy.” He beat out fellow nominees including Ladj Ly, whose “Les Misérables” ultimately won Best Film, and Céline Sciamma, whose wildly acclaimed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” went home with just one award, for Best Cinematography. Polanski’s win did not sit well with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Adèle Haenel, who could be seen in the telecast walking out of the ceremony at the Salle Pleyel when the award was announced. Watch below.
Haenel has been an active voice in the #MeToo movement which, as she outlined in a recent New York Times interview, she believes has failed in France. That claim appeared to resonate at the Césars — France’s equivalent to the Academy Awards — when Polanski, a convicted sex offender, won the top directing prize. In fall 2018, Haenel spoke about her own experience with sexual harassment while working with “The Devils” director Christophe Ruggia. Haenel was up for Best Actress at the French awards this year, but lost to Anaïs Demoustier for “Alice and the Mayor.”
Polanski was a no-show at the ceremony, as were his “Officer and a Spy” team members, all of whom boycotted the ceremony earlier this week.
“Activists are threatening me with a public lynching. Some have called for demonstrations, others are planning to make it a platform,” he told Agence France Presse earlier this week. “This promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema designed to reward its greatest talents.”
Polanski, a convicted sex offender, has lived in exile in France since fleeing the United States in 1978. In France, his continuing body of work is well-received. Along with three César trophies for “An Officer and a Spy” on Friday night — directing, adapted screenplay, and costumes — the annual awards have past feted Polanski with Best Director in 2014 for “Venus in Fur,” Best Adapted Screenplay for “Carnage” in 2012, along with multiple prizes each for “The Ghost Writer,” “The Pianist,” and “Tess.”
As the César Awards were underway on Friday, women’s activist groups outside the venue protested Polanski’s inclusion among the nominees.
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