The minister for women’s rights in France has branded the decision to appoint filmmaker Roman Polanski to helm a panel for the country’s version of the Oscars as “shocking”.
The 83-year-old award-winning director, whose film credits include ‘Rosemary’s Baby’, ‘Tess’ and ‘The Pianist’, fled the US in 1978 ahead of being sentenced for statutory rape after admitting sex with a minor.
Organisers of the annual César Awards have defended their decision, describing the director, who is still wanted in the US for the rape of a 13-year-old girl, as an “insatiable aesthete”.
French women’s rights groups are now calling for a boycott of the televised ceremony next month.
Laurence Rossignol, France’s Minister for Women’s Rights, told France Culture radio she found it “surprising and shocking that a rape case counts for little in the life of a man”.
An online petition calling for Polanski to be removed from the jury role has already received 50,000 signatures.
“It is an insult to women and the suffering they can endure, an insult to victims of rape,” it read.
Feminist groups also greeted the announcement with outrage. “We are extremely angry,” said Claire Serre-Combe of Osez le Féminisme (Dare Feminism).
“We cannot let this pass,” she continued. “Making Polanski president is a snub to rape and sexual assault victims. The quality of his work counts for nothing when confronted with the crime he committed, his escape from justice and his refusal to face up to his responsibilities.”
However, a statement from the French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques, which runs the Césars, stood by the decision, whilst expressing their admiration for the filmmaker.
The organisation’s head, Alain Terzian, told the French newspaper Le Monde: “Artist, filmmaker, producer, writer, actor, director, there are many words to define Roman Polanski but only one to express our admiration and enchantment: thank you, Mr President.”
In December, Poland’s Supreme Court rejected a request by the nation’s justice minister to have Mr Polanski extradited to the US to face the charges, upholding a lower court ruling that he had already served a prison term and would not get a fair trial in the US.
The 42nd Cesars ceremony will take place in Paris on 24 February.