A new film about the antisemitic prosecution and conviction of French Army Captain Albert Dreyfus 120 years ago has been nominated for a dozen “French Oscars” despite being completely snubbed in Hollywood.
‘An Officer and a Spy,’ or ‘J’Accuse’ in French, swept the board at the prestigious César Awards for French cinema, but was not nominated in any category by the Academy Awards in Hollywood.
The difference could be explained by the film’s 86-year old director Roman Polanski, himself Jewish, who was convicted of statutory rape in 1977. He fled the US after his conviction and has since faced several similar accusations by women.
The head of the César Awards this week said Polanski’s film had been judged on its merits, adding that the awards did not “take moral positions” on film directors, in stark contrast to the mood in a Hollywood shaken by the #MeToo movement, which came from revelations about former movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.
In 1894, the 35-year old artillery officer Dreyfus was convicted of treason, charged with passing French military secrets to the Germans via their embassy in Paris. He was sent to a penal colony in French Guiana.
In 1896, French counter-intelligence chief Colonel Georges Picquart identified the real culprit as an Army Major, but high-ranking officials suppressed the details and transferred Picquart to North Africa.
Details soon emerged and the scandal rocked both the government and French society for years, long after Dreyfus returned in 1899 for a retrial. He was ultimately acquitted, and went on to fight for France in the First World War, before dying in 1935.
In September last year Polanski’s film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Festival, but in November French actress Valentine Monnier accused Polanski of violently raping her in 1975, when she was 18. He denies any wrongdoing.
Watch a trailer for the film here.