César Awards Board To Resign Amid Controversy Over Roman Polanski Nominations

The French Académie des Arts et Technique du Cinéma, the group that hands out the country’s César Awards, said Thursday that the board of directors at its parent the Association for the Promotion of Cinema will step down after this year’s ceremony, which is set for February 28 in Paris. The news comes amid backlash that has escalated since this year’s César nominations were announced, with Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy in the lead with 12.

“To honor those who made films in 2019, to regain serenity and make the cinema festival a celebration, the Board of Directors of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema (Academy of Cinema Arts and Technology) made a unanimous decision to resign,” the group said in a press release that went out late Thursday in Paris. “This collective resignation will allow for the complete renewal of the Association’s management.”

The Académie said its general assembly will meet after the Césars and “implement the announced modernization measures.” That refers to its statement late Monday saying it was undertaking measures to “modernize” the awards, which are the French equivalent of the Oscars, and making efforts to balance the voting body, which is currently 65% male.

Earlier on Monday, some 200 artists published an open letter in Le Monde, calling into question an “elitist and closed” Académie and saying they have “no voice” in how the organization operates. Signatories included Jacques Audiard, Robin Campillo, Laurent Cantet, Bertrand Tavernier, Céline Sciamma, Claire Denis, Arnaud Desplechin, Mati Diop and Omar Sy.

The letter called for “an in-depth overhaul” of the modes of governance of the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, which manages the Académie, “and of the democratic operations that govern them.”

After the nominations, several women’s groups called for a protest outside the ceremony, which is at the Salle Pleyel concert hall in Paris. They vowed to protest in order to “say no to the celebration of a rapist who silences his victims.”

Polanski has for decades lived in France after fleeing the U.S. on the eve of final sentencing in a 1977 statutory rape case. He has continued to make films here, but in the #MeToo era, and amid a more recent allegation (which he has denied), he has become an increasingly controversial figure.

In 2017, the Académie made headlines over its appointment of Polanski as president of that year’s ceremony. The move was followed by an outcry from women’s groups who vowed to protest the event. The filmmaker ultimately pulled out of the largely honorary position. In November last year, protesters blocked the entrance to a premiere of An Officer and a Spy, which Gaumont released locally

An Officer And A Spy, which won the Grand Jury Prize in Venice last year and hit theaters in Paris at No. 1, is about the Dreyfus Affair and stars Jean Dujardin.

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