Actresses walk out of awards ceremony after director accused of sexual assault wins three awards

Actresses walk out of awards ceremony after director accused of sexual assault wins three awards

Several actresses walked out of the Cesar Awards, France's most prestigious awards ceremony on Friday, after controversial filmmaker Roman Polanski won best director, Sky News reports.

They did so in protest against the honoring of a man who is currently facing a number of rape accusations. Polanski, who was convicted of the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1977, directed the film An Officer And A Spy - which, aside from winning the best director Cesar award, picked up two other awards. In total, the historical drama was nominated for 12 Cesar awards.

This is the moment actress Adèle Haenel walked out of the Cesars:

Last year, a French actress came forward to accuse Polanski of raping her in 1975 when she was 18 years old, during a ski holiday in Gstaad, Switzerland. Polanski has denied the accusation.

The 86-year-old was, in fact, absent from the ceremony due to protests by women's rights groups who slammed the 12 nominations. The Pianist director reportedly said that he feared for his and his family's safety amid the protests. And in a statement this week, Polanski said “activists are threatening me with a public lynching.”

One of the actresses who left the ceremony in protest was Adele Haenel, who, last year, opened up about the sexual abuse she suffered as a child at the hands of another director.

To nominate Polanski “means raping women isn’t that bad,” she told the New York Times.

Credit: PA

She continued: “When An Officer and a Spy was released, we heard outcries about censorship. It isn’t censorship—it’s about choosing who one wants to watch. And old rich white men, rest assured: You own all of the communication channels.”

The 12 nominations for the French-Polish director's film sparked major debate across France, with a number of feminist organizations calling for people to boycott the event.

After weeks of controversy over the decision to honor Polanski at the ceremony, the entire Cesar board resigned earlier this month.

They said, per Sky News, the decision was made to "honor those who made films in 2019, to regain serenity and make the cinema festival a celebration".