Fury as Roman Polanski's new film tops French 'Oscar' nominations

Director Roman Polanski has been wanted in the United States for statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl since 1978. PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Roman Polanski's new film An Officer And A Spy topped the list of nominations on Wednesday (Jan 29) for the French "Oscars", sparking fury from feminists.

The director has been wanted in the United States for statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl since 1978.

His period drama about the Dreyfus affair, which rocked France at the turn of the 20th century, is in line for 12 Cesars.

The head of the French film academy Alain Terzian said it "should not take moral positions" about giving awards. But its choice was condemned by feminists and film critics.

"If rape was an art, give all the Cesars to Polanski," tweeted French women's group Osez le feminisme.

"By celebrating a fugitive rapist and child sex criminal, we silence the victims," added the group, which said it would demonstrate outside the awards ceremony on Feb 28.

British film critic Caspar Salmon was equally scathing.

"The Cesar awards are literally inviting an actor, who was a victim of sexual assault by a director when she was a child (Adele Haenel), and a director who sexually abused a child (Polanski), to be in the same room together for a big celebration of film."

Haenel, nominated for best actress for her performance in Portrait Of A Lady On Fire, touched a nerve last year by telling how she was sexually harassed from age 12 in her first film.

French director Christophe Ruggia was charged with sexual assault on a minor earlier this month.

Polanski, 86, won best director and critics' prize at the Venice film festival in August for An Officer And A Spy, which has been a big hit at the French box office despite protests.

Some screenings had to be cancelled after feminists invaded or blockaded cinemas.

The publicity campaign for the film was also halted after French photographer Valentine Monnier claimed that she had been raped by the director in 1975.

Monnier, an 18-year-old model and actress at the time, said he tried to give her a pill as he beat her "into submission" at his Swiss chalet.

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