Embattled director Roman Polanski has confirmed to the AFP that he will not be attending the Cesar Awards on Friday.
The filmmaker’s latest feature, “An Officer and a Spy,” was nominated for 12 gongs this year, sparking outrage from French feminist groups and ultimately leading the 21-member board of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema – the organization that oversees the Cesar Academy – to resign en masse following criticism of the board’s opaque practices and boy’s club atmosphere.
On Thursday afternoon, the director released a statement, saying, “For several days, people have asked me this question: Will I or won’t I attend the Cesar ceremony? The question I ask in turn is this: How could I?”
“The way the night will unfold, we already know in advance,” he continued. “Activists have already threatened me with a public lynching, Some have announced protests in front of the Salle Pleyel. Others intend to make it a platform to denounce (the) governing body. It promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema.”
Polanski said he was skipping the ceremony in order to protect his team as well as his wife and children, who “have been made to suffer injuries and affronts.”
Making reference to the recent media scandal that led to the Cesar board’s mass resignation, Polanski added: “The press and social media have presented our 12 nominations as if they were gifts offered to us by the academy’s board of directors, as some authoritarian gesture that had forced their resignations. Doing so undermines the secret vote of the 4,313 professionals who alone decide the nominations, and the more than 1.5 million viewers who came to see the film.”
The filmmaker also alluded to the new accusations of sexual assault levelled against him in recent years.
Proclaiming his innocence, he struck a harsh tone against “the activists brandishing this number of 12 women I supposedly assaulted a half-century ago” and called the recent allegations “fantasies of unhealthy minds – a lie told 1,000 times become a truth.”
Last month, Polanski took home the best director prize at France’s Lumières Awards, where “An Officer and a Spy” racked up five nominations. He didn’t attend that ceremony, either, instead sending along an assistant director to accept the prize.
On Wednesday, it was revealed that producer and outgoing board of governors member Margaret Ménégoz would take over as interim president of the Cesar Academy, overseeing a transition period until a new board is announced in April.