Roman Polanski won the French equivalent of an Oscar as best director for his film about Alfred Dreyfus, leading to protests at the awards ceremony over his U.S. conviction three decades ago for raping a minor.
Adele Haenel, who was nominated for best actress in the Friday night awards Cesar ceremony, walked out of the auditorium shouting “shame” when Polanski’s award was announced. He also won for best adapted screenplay for “An Officer and a Spy,” about the wrongfully convicted Jewish French army officer Alfred Dreyfus.
Haenel last year accused the director of her first film, Christophe Ruggia, of sexually harassing her when she was 12.
“Honouring Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims,” Haenel said before the ceremony, according to reports. “It means raping women isn’t that bad.”
Meanwhile, protesters chanting “Lock up Polanski!” tried to enter the theatre where the ceremony was taking place and were held back by police firing tear gas, the French news agency AFP reported.
Polanski, 86, pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a 13-year-old, but fled to Europe in 1978 rather than face a possible jail sentence. He has since lived outside of the United States and avoided extradition. Other women have accused him of rape or sexual abuse over the years.
Polanski has come under fire for drawing parallels between his legal ordeal and that of Dreyfus, who in 1894 was sentenced to life in prison for treason. He was later exonerated when evidence of the prosecution’s partially antisemitic motives was discovered.
Raised in Poland, Polanski survived Krakow’s Jewish ghetto as a child and, after launching his film career in Poland after the war, moved to the United States in 1968.