French film awards’ pick of Roman Polanski as head judge sparks outrage

Polanski is wanted in the US on charges of sex with a minor

The appointment of director Roman Polanski as the head of the jury for France’s César Awards – the country’s equivalent of the Oscars – has sparked outrage.

The César awards, which is organised by the Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma, will take place at the Salle Pleyel in Paris on February 24. The position as head judge of the jury is seen as a prestigious role, and was previously held by the two-time Oscar winner Claude Lelouch.

However, Polanski’s appointment on Thursday (January 19) as head of the jury has been met by fierce criticism, with the French minister for women’s rights, Laurence Rossignol, branding the decision as “shocking.” Polanski is notoriously wanted in the US for admitting to sex with a minor, with the director fleeing the country in 1978 ahead of his sentencing for statutory rape.


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Rossignol said that she found it “surprising and shocking that a rape case counts for little in the life of a man,” while a number of women’s right groups have expressed their outrage at the decision. “We are extremely angry,” said Claire Serre-Combe of Osez le Féminisme (Dare Feminism). “We cannot let this pass. 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.”

The Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma, however, were defiant in praising the Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby and The Pianist director, with its president Alain Terzian stating: “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.”

A request by Poland’s justice minister to have Polanski extradited to the US to face charges was rejected by the country’s Supreme Court in December. Polanski holds both French and Polish citizenship.

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