On Monday evening, journalists and demonstrators converged on the patio of the Cinémathèque Française in Paris, France, to protest the center's new retrospective of the celebrated director and accused sexual assaulter, Roman Polanski. The retrospective opened Monday and is set to run through November 25th, covering his first feature, 1962's The Knife in the Water, through 2013's Venus in Fur. Photographs emerged on Twitter showing the director, who reportedly knew about the protest in advance, being ushered through walls of demonstrators to attend the opening.
Though Polanski is still wanted in the United States on six felony counts after he allegedly sexually assaulted a 13-year-old girl in 1977, he's long been welcome in France, and lived in the country occasionally, since he fled the U.S. on his day of sentencing in 1978. But feminists in France say Polanski has outstayed his time in their country. On Monday, they made their voices heard: In a video posted to Twitter, protesters are shown rapping on the windows of Cinémathèque as they hold up signs in defiance of Polanski.
This protest was organized by the French feminist organization Osez le féminisme after a change.org petition to cancel the Polanski retrospective failed to change the film center's plans (the petition gathered nearly 28,000 signatures). "By the assumed choice of this retrospective Polanski, by the denial of the criminal facts which are reproached to him, the Cinematheque participates in the idea that to violate a child, it is not so serious in front of the 'genius of the artist,'" Osez le féminisme wrote in its announcement of the protest. "The impunity of Polanski, coupled with the laurels that this film institution braids him, is unbearable."
The recent focus in the U.S. on misbehavior by men in the entertainment business, sparked by the more than 60 women alleging sexual assault and harassment by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, hasn't escaped the attention of the French. Indeed, the Polanski demonstration arrives just one day after hundreds of women participated in #MeToo protests in 11 French cities on Sunday, referencing the hashtag organized in the wake of allegations of sexual harassment and assault against Weinstein.
Polanski has long been a controversial presence in France. Earlier this year, after the César Awards, France's version of the Oscars, announced that it was anointing Polanski the president of its ceremony, Osez le feminisme planned a protest, the hashtag #BoycottCesar began trending on Twitter, and a change.org petition emerged to stop the ceremony from featuring the director. Days later, Polanski decided to forego attending the ceremony. Public opinion polls, according to a 2009 Financial Times story, have "consistently shown" that 65 to 75 percent of the French population would prefer that Polanski be extradited to the U.S. for sentencing.
Polanski has also been traditionally fêted by the American movie establishment. In 2009, more than 100 in the entertainment industry—including Weinstein and Martin Scorsese—signed a petition asking Switzerland to release the director. But warm sentiments toward the director among the California entertainment elite may soon be chilling too: Since Weinstein was booted from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, many industry observers have called for alleged sexual predators Billy Cosby and Polanski to be kicked out as well. On Friday, Academy president Dawn Hudson sent an email to Academy members announcing the forthcoming establishment of a "code of conduct" for Academy members, to include "a policy for evaluating alleged violations and determining if action regarding membership is warranted."