Outrage as Roman Polanski's new film receives a dozen nominations at 'French Oscars'

Tom Beasley
·3-min read
Roman Polanski before a screening of 'An Officer and a Spy' during Cinergia Film Festival on 29 November 2019. (Photo by Beata Zawrzel/NurPhoto via Getty Images)
Roman Polanski before a screening of 'An Officer and a Spy' during the Cinergia Film Festival (Getty)

Roman Polanski’s latest film has received 12 nominations at the César Awards — the French equivalent of the Oscars — drawing ire on social media.

An Officer and a Spy, which was released in France as J’Accuse, tells the story of the 19th century Dreyfus Affair, in which a French army officer was wrongly imprisoned for leaking military secrets.

The movie is the leading nominee at the Césars, with its nods including best film and a best director nomination for Polanski.

Alain Terzian, who runs the awards, defended the nominations, stating that the voting body “should not take moral positions” when handing out their prizes.

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The 86-year-old director of Rosemary’s Baby has been a controversial figure since he fled the US in 1978 before he could be sentenced for the crime of unlawful sex with a minor, to which he had pleaded guilty.

He has since had multiple allegations of sexual assault levelled at him, with French actress Valentine Monnier accusing him last year of raping her at a Swiss ski chalet in 1975.

Demonstrators hold banners reading "Polanski rapist" outside the "Champo" cinema hall in Paris on November 12, 2019. (Photo by Christophe Archambault/AFP via Getty Images)
Demonstrators hold banners reading "Polanski rapist" outside the Champo cinema hall in Paris last November (AFP via Getty)

The premiere of An Officer and a Spy in Paris was targeted by protesters, with Polanski ultimately leaving via the side door to avoid the crowds.

French feminist group Osez Le Féminisme condemned the Césars for dishing out nominations to Polanski.

The group also referred to actress Adèle Haenel — a César nominee for Portrait of a Lady on Fire — who alleged she was sexually assaulted by director Christophe Ruggia when she was making her debut film at the age of 12.

Ruggia has denied the allegations against him, but was formally charged by Paris prosecutors earlier this month.

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Osez le Féminisme wrote: “Have we learned nothing from #MeToo? When in the US, [Harvey] Weinstein is risking life in prison, when in France Adèle Haenel breaks the omerta on the impunity of rapists in cultural life, the Césars acclaim a child abuser and rapist on the run?”

Film critic Caspar Salmon was among those to criticise the César nominations on Twitter, using the French phrase for “s*** the bed” to describe the decision.

An Officer and a Spy stars former Oscar winner Jean Dujardin, as well as Louis Garrel and Quantum of Solace villain Mathieu Amalric.

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The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival in August and won the Grand Jury Prize.

Polanski won an Oscar in 2003 for Second World War drama The Pianist and was presented with the award by Harrison Ford in France, as he could not return to the USA to accept it himself.

There is no current release date for An Officer and a Spy in the UK.