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Roman Polanski drops role of presiding over 'French Oscars' after outrage

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Roman Polanski drops role of presiding over 'French Oscars' after outrage
Photo: AFP
09:27 CET+01:00
The controversial film director Roman Polanski has given up a chance to preside over the Cesar awards - France's equivalent of the Oscars, his lawyer said on Thursday after the decision to hand him the role caused outrage among women's groups, who had called for protests.
The "controversy... deeply saddened Roman Polanski and affected his family," his lawyer Herve Temine said in a statement.
 
"However, in order not to disturb the Cesars ceremonies, which should focus on the cinema and not on the appointment of the (event's) president, Roman Polanski has decided not accept the invitation... and will not preside over the next Cesars ceremonies," he said.
 
The furore was "stoked by completely false information," Termine said.
 
News that he had accepted the role prompted anger from French feminist groups and France's minister for women's rights. They had threatened to hold protests at the event and called for a boycott.
 
Their anger is caused by the fact Polanski has been wanted in the US for almost four decades for the rape of a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977. 
 
The leading group Osez le feminisme (Dare feminism) called the decision by the French Academy of Cinema Arts and Techniques to offer Polanski the job of hosting the ceremony "shameful".
 
In a statement titled "We feel sick", the group blasted the decision to choose Polanski.
   
"We are extremely angry," spokeswoman Claire Serre-Combe told AFP. "We cannot let this pass.
   
"Making Polanski president is a snub to rape and sexual assault victims. Some people say that he is a great film-maker, that everything is relative.
   
"The quality of his work counts for nothing when confronted with the crime he committed, his escape from justice and his refusal to face up to his responsibilities," she added.
   
Polanski, who was 43 at the time, was accused of drugging the girl before having sex with her.
 
'It was 40 years ago' 
   
He pleaded guilty to unlawful sex with a minor, or statutory rape, as part of a plea bargain under which he served 42 days in detention while undergoing psychiatric evaluation.
   
But in 1978, convinced that a judge was going to scrap the deal and hand him a hefty prison sentence, Polanski fled to France.
   
The academy had earlier praised Polanski as an "insatiable aesthete" and former French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti defended him as a "great director... who should be allowed to preside over the ceremony.
   
"It is something that happened 40 years ago. One cannot bring up this affair every time we talk about him because there was a problem back them," she told French public radio.
   
"It is just an awards ceremony, we should not give any more importance to it that than that," said the novelist and Socialist MP.
   
Ironically, the film which is likely to win biggest at this year's Cesars is "Elle", about a rape victim who takes her revenge on her attacker by extracting her own sexual pleasure from him.
   
It won best foreign film at the Golden Globes in Los Angeles earlier this month, and best actress for its star Isabelle Huppert.
   
Polanski, who is Franco-Polish, was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 on a US extradition request and spent 10 months under house arrest before Bern rejected the US order.
  
The US then asked Poland to extradite him in January 2015, but a Krakow court rejected the demand the in October, with the country's supreme court backing the decision two months later.
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