The 21-person Cesar Awards board will resign in protest of Roman Polanski

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How do you say “Cesars So Rapist” in French? Google Translate tells me it’s “Cesars Si Violeur,” but I bet that’s not it. This year featured a compressed Oscar season and the earliest-ever Oscar Awards. Every other awards show got in line with the compressed schedule, even the BAFTAs (and that was so nice, actually). The only awards show which did not fall in line was the Cesar Awards (the French Oscars), which usually take place a week or a few days before the Oscars (in recent years). This year, the Cesars are scheduled for February 28th, nearly three weeks after the Oscars. If you stand apart, people are going to notice, and the Cesars are being scrutinized like never before.

It seems that Roman Polanski’s latest film, An Officer and a Spy, was nominated for 12 Cesars. This comes after several women have come forward to say that yes, Polanski raped, assaulted or molested them as well, and the 1977 LA case was not an isolated incident. The nominations (and the sheer volume of them) made headlines days ago. But did you know that the 21-person Cesar Awards board has resigned in protest?

The 21-person board that runs the César Academy announced Thursday they are all jointly resigning after the upcoming César Awards, France’s equivalent to the Oscars. The awards ceremony is set to take place February 28. It’s a shocking announcement, the French equivalent of the film Academy’s board of governors—which includes Oscar winners Laura Dern, Whoopi Goldberg, and Steven Spielberg—departing from the 92-year-old film institution en masse.

The announcement arrives shortly after this year’s César nominations were announced. Leading the pack of nods this year? Roman Polanski and his film An Officer and a Spy, which earned 12 nominations total. Though Polanski, who pleaded guilty in 1977 for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl, has been rejected by the U.S. film industry in the wake of the #MeToo movement, certain prestigious corners of France’s film industry have embraced the controversial director.

Per Variety, the board’s decision to step down stems from discord surrounding the César Academy’s practices, as well as protests spurred by Polanski’s nominations. In addition, the César Academy generated backlash after excluding venerated feminist figures like Claire Denis and author Virginie Despentes from a recent gala ahead of the ceremony.

There have also been clashes over the French academy’s lack of transparency over its voting process, in addition to a general lack of inclusivity. A recent petition calling for a “complete overhaul” of the organization signed by 400 prominent figures in the film industry, including stars like Léa Seydoux and director Michel Hazanavicius, was published in the French newspaper Le Monde on Tuesday, signaling the need for change within the César Academy’s ranks. Currently, there are about 4,700 members in the organization.

In the statement announcing the mass resignation, the exiting César board said it was making the move “to honor all those who made [French] cinema in 2019, and to gain back some serenity and ensure that the celebration of cinema remains a celebration,” per Variety. It’s unclear what steps will be taken to revamp the organization’s leadership after the César Awards take place.

[From Vanity Fair]

I have a lot of questions, actually. Why are there Americans on the Cesars’ de facto board of governors? How are nominations voted on, or does the board of governors do that? It doesn’t sound like it, it sounds like the board of governors had no say in the nominations. And does the entire Cesar Academy vote on the nominations AND the awards? Anyway, this kind of controversy and mass-resignation is good overall – it shows that the Oscars weren’t really alone in being problematic and too white and male dominated. The BAFTAs had issues, and now the Cesars are problematic AF too. I do hope the French peeps go with a “complete overhaul.” AMPAS should have done that too, and so should the British Academy.

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35 Responses to “The 21-person Cesar Awards board will resign in protest of Roman Polanski”

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  1. Mel says:

    French person here. I bang my head against the walls about Polanski. The problem is also that the story of his latest film is a very important part of our history and this helped push the marketing. It’s also worth noting that it’s been an awards shows and festivals darling. I’m interested to see how the ceremony goes because the emcee is actress and comedian Florence Foresti and she does not follow other people’s rules and decorum. She announced the nominations and changed the title of the film and made it seem like a Freudian slip. It was anything but. The artist vs man debate is one that I DO NOT want to keep having.

    • Léna says:

      Fellow french person here. I don’t get your point of view Mel… Can you please explain?

      Anyway, I despise Polanski but it seems that this resignation is more related to the voting process and the sketchy choices of the Academy, rather than siding with Polanski…

      • Mel says:

        Fair enough. I reread it and my POV is not clear! Doing several things at once…anyway. I HATE that he keeps getting accolades and passes and I felt it especially this time because they kept talking about Dreyfus and how important it is to tell the story. This helped the whitewashing. People on social media were like « this story is too important. Who cares if it’s Polanski? » I CARE! This guy is on the run but making millions and getting prizes. I just can’t.

      • Léna says:

        Thanks Mel! Completely agree with you then! I hated how he compared himself to Dreyfus… Gross

      • Delph says:

        French here too. Polanski is also part of the voters and people don’t want him voting anymore. It’s not just about the nominations.

    • Mtec says:

      I think that’s been what’s excused him from accountability for so long, that people view his films as so “important” as if the human race is so dependent on them for survival that it’s okay to pardon him for being a serial rapist. No film is that important.

      Also it’s interesting to me how willing some people are to forgive a serial rapist (that keeps getting away with the crime at that). I highly doubt if it would be a serial murderer who keeps getting away with it, that we’d ever be having the conversation about separating the Artist from the art. So I’ll never be okay with people who choose to do so when the issue is rape.

    • Jamie says:

      I understand a little bit of French. Could you please tell us how she announced the film’s title?

      • Léna says:

        Instead of saying the title “J’accuse” she said “Je suis accusé…” (She didn’t finished the last word though)
        Which changes the meaning of the phrase “I accuse” to ” I am accused of”

  2. Joy says:

    Considering Whoopi once minimized this whole thing I’m shocked she quit.

    • Mtec says:

      If I remember correctly other actors like Emma Thompson and Natalie Portman had signed the petition siding with Polanski, only to learn and change their mind later. People can grow and change. How bout we allow them that chance.

      • Mabs A'Mabbin says:

        Thank you Mtec. What’s the point of protesting and movements? If we’re going to rant and rave about the way something is done, aren’t we crying out for change? And if change slowly unfolds, do we forever shun those once misguided? I’d think changing minds is the purpose of screaming for change.

      • MC2 says:

        The thing about accepting that people grow & change is that they have to tell you they grew & changed. Whoopi has not publicly changed her stance on Polanski, and her horrid comment effected many people, so if she has grown & changed, it’d be nice to hear.

      • Mtec says:

        Oh I totally agree, if she hasn’t gotten herself educated on the subject and continues to say problematic things (which a quick google search shows that she is prone to saying very ignorant things regarding rape and rape accusations) it’s totally justifiable to criticize her.

        That being said more recently, when it came to Cosby, she was again on the bs about not believing victims until he was found guilty by a court, but after protests and others educating her, she has since been able to acknowledge that the issue is way more complicated than “innocent till proven guilty” and she acknowledged that the court of public opinion sometimes is all that victims have. She still has a long way to go, but like @Mabs is saying, perhaps public protests like that are creating change. Though I hate to give people kudos for doing the bare minimum, Whoopi has a lot to unlearn from what seems to be her own internalized sexism and misogyny, but at the same time she also seems to be making progress on the issue, albeit slowly and not totally informed, it’s still in the right direction.

        What i also took issue with the original comment was that she alone was singled out for “supporting” Polanski, when there are still tons of people in that industry (and specially in the French film industry, which is what this article focuses on) that have never publicly acknowledged any remorse for signing that petition or supporting Polanski in other ways. Just saying it was odd to me how only she was the only one singled out in that comment.

    • Coco says:

      I may be wrong but I think that the original article is written very awkwardly. It says “the French equivalent of the Academy [Awards]’s” board of governors.” Then it gives examples like Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Speilberg. I read that as examples of the board of the Oscars, not the Cesars. I’d guess that they didn’t cite the French members because the writer of the article assumed American readers wouldn’t recognize the names of people famous in France.

    • Abby says:

      I read this as this board is LIKE the board that Whoopi is on.

    • Sarah says:

      Whoops is not on the Cesar board. I think the article is a bit confusing what they are trying to show is what the equivalent is for the Oscar board. Laura Dern and Whoopi Goldberg are on that.

  3. Coz' says:

    I think Oscar winners are defacto members of the Cesar Academy.
    The uproar comes from lack of transparency and inclusivity. I don’t think it’s due to the multiple Polansky nominations. At least it’s not how it’s been reported.

  4. AnnaKist says:

    I’ve always loathed this prick, Polanski. I even hate typing his name, and wish he’d fall off the face of the earth with his ugly fizzer and fetid brain exploding with the sounds of our collective voices shouting “Bye-bye, C U Next Tuesday”.

  5. Ameara says:

    I think they’re trying to say that Laura Dern Whoopi Goldberg and Steven Spielberg are part of the American Academy’s board of governors and the people who resign are their French equivalent, but they worded it poorly.

    Also, it goes without saying, Polanski should burn in hell for what he did!

    • Powermoonchrystal says:

      I read it that way as well. I think they were trying to make it more understandable for American readers, who may not think much about the French names of the people who quit, but would better recognize their status in the industry through those examples. The support of Polanski goes to show some very powerful people in that industry probably share his crimes.

    • Abby says:

      This is how I read it.

      Kind of just randomly connecting this story to some Americans.

  6. BWayney says:

    bUt ThE sToRy Is ReAlLy ImPoRtAnT

    Yes. Yes, it is. It’s extremely important. It was one of the most significant and influential things I learned in 8 years of academic study.

    So why hasn’t anyone else been encouraged to make it? Why was the only director promoted for this piece the one who openly acknowledges that he drugged, raped, and sodomized a thirteen year old girl?

    We know he’s a good filmmaker. He has proved that time and again, since he has been repeatedly given chances (over female and minority filmmakers, no doubt) to demonstrate that skill. This is never about the art, or his ability to contribute to it. This is not an indictment of his talent.

    This is an indictment of him as a child rapist, fugitive, and overall piece of garbage.

    You can NOT “separate the man from the art,” you can only separate the victim from your concern.


    End of story.

    • adastraperaspera says:

      This is spot on. Especially: “you can only separate the victim from your concern.”

  7. line says:

    The Academy des César is made up of 4,700 cinema professionals and is confidential. To be part of the jury, you must have at least two sponsorships and have participated in at least three feature films in five years. Then the Academy is itself governed by an association “the Association for the Promotion of Cinema (APC).

    All the members of this association are cinema professionals (director, actors, scriptwriters, etc.) who have received an Oscar, that is, 47 members.The problem is that these cinema professionals who have to pay to be able to vote on films are overseen by a board of directors made up of founding members, former presidents or members of the association. , 21 people in total.

    All this members takes all the decisions concerning the films and to ceremony, and theirs voice counts more than the other 47 members.
    The second problem is all this members they are elected for life in a vote that is decided only among themselves. The third problems is that all members has an average aged of over 70 years old (the youngest member is Marion Cotillard who a 44).Only three women are part of this group and most of the members are not really film professionals.This creates a huge problem of diversity in French cinema because it is always art films made by white directors who tell stories about white men (drama, thriller, biopics …) who are still nominated. For a long time the 47 other members requested that have changed the rules but they have always been ignored. The Polanski affair just sped things up for change.

  8. Nem says:

    There is a lack of elements for foreigners to understand the f**k up in this very french situation.
    Polanski continues to be an awful symptom of the very strong will of french institutions not to deal with violence against women, here rape and more particurlarly statutory rape and pedophilia.
    Few years ago, There was an attempts to have laws and public money for age of consent of 15 years old, and marital violence and it failed badly.
    There is unease about age of consent in France as it would put our first Lady Brigitte Macron and the beginning of her relationship with the president in a very grim Light, and make her look like a criminal.
    As a consequence to protect her, we have had some recent trials where young girls aged as young as 11,were considered consentant to their rapes.
    In this context we have since january a series of big pedophilia scandals, all concerning People in high places : high litterature writer and overt pédophile Gabriel Matzneff(There is à great article in NYT about him online),national ice skating big bosses protecting rapist trainers friends, cardinal Barbarin doing the same with guilty priests.
    Matzneff whose pedophilia was an open secret for decades is abandonned by the political, medias , and the tout paris élite as the victim Who denounced him is now a powerful editor, and he isn’t successful anymore, in the days of #metoo having some conséquences even in the very patriarcal France. But Polanski continued success and great prestige allows him to cast beloved actors like the idiotic and misogynistic Jean dujardin, Louis Garrel…
    And to be given money from our minister of culture to make films.
    All this for a movie Which is said to make a hero of antisemite protagonist, and putting on the side the spouse and brother of the captain Dreyfus.
    French institutions and cinema pundits look like fools for years in theirs relentless efforts to honor and help him, but the 12 nominations at the oscars are the icing in the cake in a absolute dreadful atmosphere.
    The irony is thé members of the césars academy like others have already written are leaving about others problems, they do support polanski, and several in the New générations do as well, in the nepotism racist sexist mess that thé french cinéma is.

    • Coco says:

      You make a lot of good points, but I want to respond to one of them.
      You say Polanski’s prestige “allows him to cast” big stars. I’d argue it’s more that Polanski’ reputation as an award-winning auteur gives stars the cover to allow themselves to be cast. Jean Dujardin can choose to act in whatever project he wants. Same goes for Matthieu Almaric, Vincent Perez, and Denis Podalydes. Alexandre Desplat can choose to compose music for any film he wants. Louis Garrel is younger than the others, but well established, so it’s not like he struggled between taking the only job he’d been offerered in years or giving up his dream of acting (plus, according to imdb he is starring in Woody Allen’s next film, so maybe Garrel is just kind of gross). Any of them could have made the choice not to associate with Polanski and their careers wouldn’t have suffered for it. They made the calculation that the chance of awards glory was worth more to them than not working with an admitted pedophile.

  9. Middle of the road says:

    He admitted to and was found guilty for raping and sodomizing a CHILD. He stole her virginity! That’s the ultimate crime aside from murder and anyone, actor/actress who can still work with this man knowing that truth makes them just as guilty. They’re complacent. They’re saying it’s okay to rape children. This planet has gone to hell. It’s clear money matters more than a child being brutally raped.

    • MC2 says:

      He raped her, and I agree with all your sentiments here, but this idea of virginity is a social construct & it’s problematic as hell. If the victim had willingly had sex before, the crime would have been just as bad. And if she had sex after, she was still a virgin, cuz rape is not when you have sexual intimacy for the first time. The idea that a woman is less than, after she is not technically a virgin, continues the harm of rape of a child & f*#$s with their thinking of their worth after being raped.

      • Jay (the Canadian one) says:

        Thank you for saying this, MC2.

      • Elizabeth says:

        Totally agree virginity is a social construct but I think the original poster was saying that raping a child was the ultimate crime aside from murder (not stealing virginity).

        the fact that this man is swanning around free, winning plaudits, is an incredible indictment on the countries that are allowing it. It’s like we have to expect rape is never taken seriously.

    • Amaria says:

      Ah, yes. The “virginity is a treasure” tribe. There’s nothing worse than a girl’s virginity bring taken, right? Because then she’s “tainted”. Because that’s the basis for a female’s worth – whether she has sex and most importantly, a piece of mucous membrane intact. If you listen to science, they’ve found only one reason for hymen to exist – to partly protect infant’s vagina from fecal matter and prevent infection – and even that’s debatable. Most science folks consider it a fetal remnant. Sad, how the male-dominated culture made this into something even worth thinking about. Funny thing is, no-one I know noticed losing their virginity in the mythical “pain and blood” way. One girl had a douchebag bf who didn’t believe it was her first intercourse because of that.

  10. Keira Lee says:

    This seems like some sort of wicked magic how Polanski, a man who drugged and raped a 13 year old girl, talked awful sick trash on record in court about having sex with young girls, is still in no way affected post #metoo and keeps making films and be celebrated.

  11. livealot says:

    The value of a woman/girl has been shown time and time again to be less than when you have pussy grabbers as presidents, princes not being held accountable, and rapists winning or being nominated for awards.

    Black people are somewhat used to these injustices (people getting a slap on the wrist when the victim is black). Welcome to the other side white women.

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

    I’m disgusted. Burn the patriarchy.