On Thursday, the board that is responsible for overseeing the César Awards (the French equivalent to the Oscars) announced that every single one of the 21 board members would be jointly resigning after the upcoming awards. While this decision might seem shocking, it comes after significant controversy surrounding the César Academy board’s practices—and the decision to give Roman Polanski’s latest film a whopping 12 César nominations.
This is not the first time the César Academy’s willingness to support Roman Polanski, a convicted child rapist who is somehow still permitted to direct films (??) and even receives awards for those films (?????????), has been a source of controversy. In 2017, after the announcement that Polanski would be presiding over the awards (truly what the fuck) led to French women’s groups calling for a boycott, the director ended up stepping down from that role.
The controversy over the choice to reward Polanski’s work despite the numerous allegations of assault against him is reflective of a deeper issue with the César Academy’s practices. Although the César Awards are often compared to the Oscars and the BAFTAs, there’s one primary difference—their members do not get to vote for their leadership. In the eyes of many members of the French film community, the decisions of this unelected board reflect a growing disparity between the Academy and the country’s broader filmmaking community. The César Academy board has also received criticism for its lack of transparency and a general lack of inclusivity, most recently after excluding two prominent feminist filmmakers from a gala ahead of the ceremony.
On Tuesday, an open calling for a “complete overhaul” of the organization, signed by over 400 prominent figures in the French film industry, was published in a French newspaper. Reportedly, the letter said that the time “had come for the democratization of the 45-year-old organization, which is run by the unelected, charitable Association for the Promotion of Cinema (APC) which appoints the board of directors.”
Although anyone will tell you that even the “democratization” of the voting process for awards like these far from guarantees inclusivity—this year, the BAFTAs literally nominated Margot Robbie twice in the same category instead of considering one of the many women of color who would be eligible for nomination—it would be a step in the right direction for this organization. It’s clear that the choices of the César Academy have not been in line with the views of the community they claim to be reflecting, but the decision to nominate Polanski’s film for so many awards goes far beyond a simple generational divide.
Being out of touch sounds silly, but potentially harmless. Enabling a convicted rapist, on the other hand, is anything but.