The elite world of French cinema is divided over the 45th César Awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscars. A movie by the controversial and divisive Franco-Polish filmmaker Roman Polanski won three awards, including the coveted Best Director prize. This was a bitter pill to swallow for many, including feminist groups who had called for a boycott of the ceremony. The incident once again ignited a fierce debate about the question of “separating the man from the artist”. Does this episode highlight a deep-rooted problem in French society? And are things slowly starting to change?
Last Friday evening in Paris, the 2020 César Award for Best Director was given to a rapist who assaulted a child – following this, a woman who was assaulted as a child by a film director walked out of the ceremony. The video of the event subsequently went viral over the weekend. Adèle Haenel – one of the lead actors in Portrait of a Lady on Fire – led the walk-out in protest at the prize awarded to Roman Polanski, while shouting “shame” and “bravo paedophile”.
A few pointers could be helpful in working out how this truly sick situation ever came about, and the cultural and political climate in France.In January of this year, the writer Vanessa Springora published a book, Le Consentement, in which she revealed that she was sexually assaulted at 14 by the writer Gabriel Matzneff, then aged 50. Matzneff, a writer who had published several apologias of paedophilia throughout the 1970s, was not made an outcast in French literary circles for his pronouncements – for instance, in 1977, that “the two most sensual beings I have known were a boy of 12 and a girl of 15”, or, in 1990, that he had had paid relations with boys as young as 11 in Manila. Continue reading “Why Adèle Haenel’s walkout over Roman Polanski matters”→