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Backlash Over Roman Polanski Nominations Forces Entire Board Of 'French Oscars' To Resign

Gettyimages | THOMAS SAMSON
By Michael Coe

The Cesar Awards (the French equivalent of the Oscars) came under intense criticism this year due to the announcement that Roman Polanski's new film An Officer And A Spy had received 12 nominations, including nominations for Best Film, Best Director, and Best Adaptation. The outrage stems from allegations made against Polanski in 1977 for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl. In response to the immense backlash against the nominations, it was recently announced that the entire board of the Cesar Awards overseers would be resigning.

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Gettyimages | Francois G. Durand

A BBC report announced that all 21 members of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, the group which distributes the Cesar Awards, have agreed to resign to ensure that the awards could continue without protest. The board issued a statement claiming they had decided to depart in order to, "find calm and ensure that the festival of film remains just that, a festival."

The departure of the board is motivated not only by Polanski but also by mounting pressures within the French film-world to reform the awards system.

Gettyimages | CHRISTOPHE ARCHAMBAULT

Protests against the Cesar Awards began earlier this year, with several directors and members of the larger Cesar Academy calling for boycotts against the ceremonies. In parallel to criticisms made over the past several years against the Oscars, criticisms against the Cesar's have mainly stemmed from a lack of gender equality and representation, both inside the Academy and within the nominations.

Polanski's nominations set off the largest outcry for change, which culminated in a petition demanding reform of the awards signed by 400 members of the Academy.

Gettyimages | Bertrand Rindoff Petroff

This year is not the first time that Polanski has caused controversy at the Cesar Awards. In 2017, Polanski was selected to be a member of the awards jury but was forced to resign from his position due to public backlash.

Polanski has spoken out against the public outcry towards his nominations and has accused the press of, “trying to make me into a monster." Polanski has called the 1977 statutory rape incident, "a curse which keeps coming back and I can do nothing about.”

Gettyimages | Andreas Rentz

Polanski currently resides in France, where he has lived since fleeing from the US in 1978 due to his statutory rape lawsuit.

Polanski was accused of drugging and raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. Upon his arrest, Polanski entered into a plea bargain which would allow him to avoid jail-time; however, this bargain was eventually rejected, which motivated Polanski to flee to Europe. Since Polanski has already pled guilty to the crime, there is no statute of limitations for him, which means he is unable to return to the US or to any country capable of extradition.

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