Polanski wins Cesar Award for best director, prompting walkout protest

Elizabeth Pineau and Johnny Cotton, Reuters

Posted at Feb 29 2020 09:57 AM

ilm director Roman Polanski arrives at the Madeleine Church to attend a ceremony during a 'popular tribute' to late French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday in Paris, France, December 9, 2017. Charles Platiau, Reuters/File

PARIS - Roman Polanski scooped France's Cesar Award for best directing for his film "An Officer and a Spy" on Friday, prompting a walkout by several women in the audience in protest at honoring a man facing rape accusations.

Polanski, whose film picked up three awards out of a dozen nominations at the biggest night in French cinema, stayed away from the event, saying he feared for his safety.

Controversy had swirled in past weeks over Polanski's inclusion in the program and police briefly clashed with protesters ahead of the event.

Among those who left the Pleynel concert hall early was leading actress Adele Haenel, who last year said she had been sexually abused as a child by another director.

Polanski's movie, which chronicles the persecution of French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus in the 1890s, lost out on best film to "Les Miserables." The Polanski film won best costume designer and best adaptation.

Polanski's nominations had divided opinion in France, a country where the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment has struggled to gain traction.