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Women Walk Out After Convicted Child Rapist Roman Polanski Wins Another Award

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski
Image: Getty

I’m furious to report that again, just as Jezebel’s own Emily Alford wrote back in September of 2019, Roman Polanski, convicted child rapist, has been given yet another award.

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In September he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival, and now he has been named best director at the Césars, France’s equivalent to the Oscars. He also won the award for best adapted screenplay.

His wins at the Césars were for the same film as his win at the Venice International Film Festival, An Officer and a Spy, (French title, J’accuse) which tells the kind of story it’s easy to recognize Polanski believes himself to be living. However, as opposed to the protagonist of the film, Polanski not only pled guilty to his crime, he also never served a day behind bars for it.

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Adèle Haenel, one of the stars of the brilliant and incredible film Portrait of a Lady on Fire, walked out of the ceremony as soon as Polanski’s name was read. She was followed by several others in attendance, including Céline Sciamma, Portrait’s director.

Attendees of the Césars weren’t the only folks at the show who were rightfully upset by the decision to celebrate a rapist and pedophile with one of the night’s highest awards (or any award at all for that matter). Florence Foresti, the award show’s host, did not return to the stage after he won.

Le Monde, a French newspaper, reported that “very few” people applauded following his wins, which is notable considering it was a room full of people who were, presumably, responsible for him receiving the award in the first place. It’s reasonable to assume that people who voted for Polanski were hesitant to show their support for him because they were ashamed to do so, which is probably evidence of the fact that they shouldn’t have made the decision to celebrate him in the first place.

As for Polanski himself, he chose not to attend the award show because he was afraid that people would treat him like the convicted child rapist that he is, which is to say that they would not ignore his history in the same way his colleagues in the voting body of the Césars chose to.

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Polanski, of course, is not alone in being a man accused or convicted of sexual abuse in the entertainment industry, or any other, who has gone on to be celebrated, paid, lauded, emboldened, and allowed to continue to work rather than be held accountable.

While Haenel, Sciamma, Foresti, and others set an example by walking out on a ceremony that celebrated Polanski, perhaps the better example would be for people to walk out of the rooms where the decisions to nominate, or better yet, work with him in the first place, are being made.

freelance writer living in San Francisco. Please clap.

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DISCUSSION

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GoodThankYouVeryMuch

Just to add context here, American and British reviews of J’accuse are generally like, “Ok, yeah, this is fine. Not great, maybe even very good, solidly and well made—fine.” It’s in the 70s on Rotten Tomatoes.

Basically, this isn’t a breathtaking work of staggering genius worthy of the top awards and more deserving of the competition on its own, which further begs the question as to why its winning when weighed down by provenance and the fact that much of the industry—even in France—seems at the most disgusted by and at the least ambivalent about Polanski.

Simply, you’ve got to wonder if he’s winning simply because there’s some sort of inertia around the French notion of him being a transcendent genius or if some people want to stick to women and forces of change with this win.