Anti-Polanski protesters greet French film awards ceremony

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Women demonstrate outside the venue of the Cesar awards ceremony, the French equivalent of the Oscar, Friday,Feb. 28, 2020 in Paris. French women's rights activists protest against multiple nominations for Roman Polanski at the Cesar Awards ceremony. Poster at right reads "I accuse Violanski", playing withe French word for rape and the name Polanski. (AP Photo/Rafael Yaghobzadeh)

PARIS – The ceremony for the French version of the Oscars took place in Paris on Friday amid protests by women's rights activists as director Roman Polanski was awarded, in his absence, the best director award for his latest film.

Polanski decided to skip the Cesar awards ceremony because of protests by women's groups denouncing the 12 nominations “An Officer and a Spy” received after a French woman brought a new rape accusation against him.

At the announcement of Polanski's award as best director, some boos emerged from the public composed of film teams and cinema professionals.

Actress Adele Haenel, who recently denounced alleged sexual assault by another French director in the early 2000s when she was 15, got up and walked out of the room, followed by a few others. “Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn’t that bad,” Haenel told the New York Times earlier this week.

The film's cast and production team, including best actor nominee Jean Dujardin, also declined to attend the ceremony. Dujardin posted a message on Instagram that said, “By making this film, I believed and I still believe I made more good than harm.”

Polanski's film won two other awards for best costume design and best adaptation. No one came on stage to accept the trophies awarded to “An Officer and a Spy.”

The show's host, comedian Florence Foresti, left Polanski’s film out of her opening remarks when she mentioned the ones with multiple nominations. Instead, Foresti referred to the 86-year-old director as “Atchoum,” French for the Sneezy character in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

"I decided that Atchoum would not be big enough to overshadow the French cinema,” she said.