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Feminism Around the World: Roman Polanski Shouldn’t Have Had the Chance to Decline Presiding Over France’s César Awards



Welcome to Feminism Around the World, a weekly feature here at TMS where we focus on women’s lives and feminist concerns around the world by applauding successes, reporting injustices, and amplifying the conversation around solutions to gender-based inequality. Because “Until we are all free, we are none of us free.” – Teresa

FRANCE: Roman Polanski Declines Opportunity to Preside Over France’s César Awards In Face of Feminist Protests

In case you need a refresher course on director Roman Polanski’s life as a sex offender:

  • 1977 – Polanski rapes 13-year-old girl. Pleads guilty and makes deal for a 90-day “psychiatric evaluation” at Chico State Prison in California (that is supported by the victim and her parents so she doesn’t have to testify) to precede future sentencing. Is released after 42. Everyone involved, including the victim and her family and Polanski’s psychiatrist, expect him to get probation, not jail time
  • 1978 – Polanski flees the U.S. after the judge threatens him with a sentence of up to 50 years.

Ever since then, Polanski has been making movies and winning awards for them while living in Europe in countries that don’t extradite to the U.S. Meanwhile, the 13-year-old victim had drinking and drug problems throughout her teen years and had a child at 18. Only now as an adult has she finally gotten to a point where she’s leading a somewhat stable existence, yet even now, her privacy gets jolted every time Polanski makes a move. She has since said that the charges should be dropped and that she’s fine…but the facts are the facts:

  • He admitted to raping a 13 year old girl by giving her alcohol and a Quaalude.
  • He fled the country during sentencing.

Individually those are serious crimes on their own. Combined? Let’s just say that I don’t think he gets to complain about what an “inconvenience” it is for him to have to continually deal with courts and extradition attempts as he’s trying to find “time with his family” and make films.

And yet, make films and spend time with his family he does! Individuals and institutions praise his work and allow him to participate as much as he likes in the filmmaking community, ignoring the fact that he’s an admitted, convicted rapist. Because he’s just so talented, and hasn’t enough time passed by now? Can’t we just forget about it? 

roman polanski

Apparently The Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma’s César Awards, who’ve honored Polanski in the past, are all ready to forget about it. They rapturously invited the rapist filmmaker to preside over this year’s ceremony. As you might expect, feminist groups were not happy. As reported by The Guardian:

“Feminist groups greeted the announcement with outrage. “We are extremely angry,” said Claire Serre-Combe of Osez le Féminisme (Dare Feminism), which described the Académie’s decision as “shameful”.

Polanski, who won an Oscar for The Pianist and nominations for Tess, Chinatown and Rosemary’s Baby, was the author of “an unpunished crime of sexual violence” and “protected by his status as a celebrity”, the groups said, calling for people to protest outside the ceremony at the Châtelet theatre in Paris on 4 February.”

In light of the protests, Polanski will no longer be presiding over the Césars. However, it’s not because the Académie stripped him of the honor, as the New York Times reports, but because he declined the invitation in a statement released by his lawyer: “In order not to disturb the César ceremony, which should be centered on cinema and not on whom it chose to preside over the ceremony, Roman Polanski has decided not to accept the invitation.”

Oh, how very big of you, Mr. Polanski.

Right now, I’m not even infuriated by Polanski, so much as I’m infuriated with the Césars. Had Polanski not declined–then what? Would it be business as usual? Would they continue to fawn all over him, even though he’s raped a child, because he makes such dang good movies? I’m thrilled that Polanski won’t be performing this largely ceremonial role, but I’m disappointed that he was even invited in the first place. And if they made the mistake of inviting him, they should have disinvited him. There is absolutely no reason why a professional international community, like the film community, should abide rapists in their midst. Certainly not after having escaped any punishment.

Then again, right now our own Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is heaping praise all over Casey Affleck after he settled with two female producers when they accused him of sexual harassment and assault. It goes to show that if you’re a white male, you can commit a crime against women, and all will be forgiven if you are creative.

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(image via praszkiewicz/Shutterstock)

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