Why Are People Protesting Roman Polanksi Again?

Director Roman Polanski will skip the French film awards ceremony, the Cesars, after women's rights groups called for a boycott of the awards, citing multiple sexual abuse allegations against him.

Polanski's film An Officer and a Spy was nominated for 12 awards at the ceremony including Best Film and Best Director. The film's nomination opened a floodgate of protesters against the director's inclusion in the ceremony.

Besides calling for a boycott, the activists also covered the venue and awards headquarters with banners protesting the director and graffiti, according to The Associated Press. The Cesars' leadership resigned after trying to come to a decision regarding Polanski's inclusion in the ceremony. "To honor the men and women who made cinema happen in 2019, to find calm and ensure that the festival of film remains just that, a festival, the board ... has decided to resign unanimously," the academy said in a statement to the Associated Press.

In a statement to French news organization AFP, Polanski spoke about his reasons for skipping the ceremony. "We know ahead of time how this evening will play out. Activists are already threatening me with a public lynching," he said in a statement. "Some are announcing demonstrations in front of the Salle Pleyel. Others plan to make it a platform for fighting against decried governance. This promises to look more like a symposium than a cinema party supposed to reward its greatest talents." Polanski also said that he's avoiding the ceremony for his wife and children's safety.

Representatives for the ceremony did not immediately respond to Newsweek's request for comment. Majorelle PR, Polanski's publicist, declined to comment on Polanski's decision not to attend.

Roman Polanski
Director Roman Polanski attends "J'Accuse" ("An Officer and a Spy") Premiere at Cinema UGC Normandie on November 12, 2019 in Paris, France. The film is nominated for 12 Cesar Awards in France, which sparked protests from women's rights groups. Stephane Cardinale - Corbis/Getty

In the wake of the #MeToo movement, the protest surrounding Polanski's nomination is unsurprising. In 1977, Polanski was charged on five counts of drugging and raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer. Polanski completed a court-ordered psychiatric evaluation, but left for France in 1978 after learning that he would likely be imprisoned and deported. Despite many requests to dismiss them, the charges against Polanski remain, as he plead guilty to unlawful sex with a minor (as a plea deal) and failed to appear for his arraignment. Polanski was detained in Zurich, Switzerland in relation to the U.S. arrest, but a Swiss court denied the U.S.'s request to extradite the director in July 2010.

Polanski has been accused of sexual abuse by four other women since 2010. In 2010 actress Charlotte Lewis said that the director "forced himself" on her during an audition in Paris in 1983.

In 2017, Swiss police investigated accusations made by former actress Renate Langer, who publicly accused Polanski of raping her when she was 15. The New York Times reported that due to the statute of limitations expiring, the investigation ended.

In November 2019, French actress Valentine Monnier told Le Parisien that the director "violently raped" her in 1975 when she was 18. Monnier said she was compelled to speak out with the release of An Officer and a Spy, despite the alleged assault happening over 20 years ago, outside of France's statute of limitations.