Protests and cancellations greet Polanski film in France after new rape accusation

Vociferous protests and cancelled interviews and promotions have greeted the release of Roman Polanski's new film in France.

Protests and cancellations greet Polanski film in France after new rape accusation
Protests outside a preview screening of the film in Paris. Photo: AFP

The “unconditional support” the director has enjoyed from the French film establishment seems to be crumbling after a new rape claim.

Interviews to promote his new film An Officer and a Spy – which opens Wednesday – have been either cancelled or pulled since a French photographer claimed on Friday that Polanski raped her in 1975 when she was 18 after beating her “into submission” at his Swiss chalet.

A preview screening in Paris' 5th arrondissement was cancelled on Tuesday night after a group of around 30 French feminists staged a demonstration outside the cinema.


The 86-year-old French-Polish film-maker – a fugitive from US justice after he was convicted of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977 – has since threatened to sue.

Valentine Monnier claimed Polanski tried to make her swallow a pill when he pounced on her after they had gone skiing in Gstaad. “I thought I was going to die,” she said in an open letter published by Le Parisien newspaper.

Monnier said she felt impelled to speak out after Polanski appeared to compare himself to the hero of his new film, Alfred Dreyfus, the Jewish officer wrongly persecuted as a spy by French army at the turn of the 20th century.

The former actress had previously written to the French first lady Brigitte Macron to complain about Polanski getting public funds to rewrite history to “cover up his criminal past”.

But despite vociferous denials and threats to sue the newspaper from Polanski's lawyers, his wife actress Emmanuelle Seigner and Jean Dujardin, the film's Oscar-winning star, have since withdrawn from major interviews on French television and radio to promote An Officer and a Spy.

French public radio – one of the film's promotional partners – also shelved another popular show Monday that featured a pre-recorded interview with Louis Garrel, who plays Dreyfus in the film.

Despite being forced to step down as president of the French Oscars in 2017 after protests by feminist groups, Polanski has weathered previous allegations of rape and sexual assault from other women.

In her letter, Monnier criticised the “unconditional support that (French) artists and intellectuals” have long given Polanski.

But this time his powerful supporters inside the film industry have remained silent.

And in a further blow to legendary film-maker, the French directors' guild, the ARP, could suspend him as early as next week after telling AFP on Tuesday that it supported “all victims of sexual violence and harassment”.

The director, who was convicted of rape in 1977 has been accused of beating and raping a second girl in 1975. Photo: AFP

It said it is considering changing its rules so that “every member convicted of a sex crime would be expelled and any under police investigation would be suspended.”

Even before the new rape claim there were signs last week that the “tolerance” of predatory sexual behaviour in the industry was evaporating

after acclaimed actress Adele Haenel said she was sexually harassed by the director of her first film when she was just 12.

Her lengthy interview prompted an outpouring of support, which many observers saw as a turning point in France's uneasy relationship with the #MeToo movement.

Haenel is so far the only star to speak out in support of Monnier. “I believe her. Her stand is all the more courageous because her aggressor is powerful,” she said.

The actress had earlier poured scorn on those who had defended Polanski, daring them to “read the description of what he did… to the child of 13 on which he forced himself” in Los Angeles.

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How France plans to prevents youngsters accessing online pornography

France is set to announce new measures this week to prevent youngsters from accessing porn websites, in the latest round of a years-long struggle to protect children from explicit material.

How France plans to prevents youngsters accessing online pornography

“I plan to put an end to this scandal,” Digital Affairs Minister Jean-Noel Barrot told the Parisien newspaper on Monday.

France’s data protection and media regulators Cnil and Arcom are set to announce their latest proposals to rein in porn websites which are in theory subject to a 2020 law requiring age verification.

Previous attempts have been held up by privacy and technical concerns, as well as court action by the websites.

To its frustration last September, a Paris court ordered Arcom to enter into mediation with several porn websites including market leader Pornhub, holding up efforts to block them.

READ MORE: France hits Google and Facebook with huge fines over ‘cookies’

Under the new proposal, people wanting to access explicit material will need to download a phone application that provides them with a digital certificate and code, the Parisien reported.

The code will be needed to access a porn website under a system “which will work a bit like the checks from your bank when you buy something online,” Barrot told the newspaper.

“2023 will mark the end of our children accessing pornographic sites,” he added.

President Emmanuel Macron, who is married to former school teacher Brigitte Macron, promised to make protecting children from porn a priority during his bid for re-election last year.

In November, he launched the Children Online Protection Laboratory, an initiative that aims to bring together industry giants and researchers to look for ways to shield minors online.

In September last year, a report entitled “Hell Behind the Scenes” by French senators concluded that there was “massive, ordinary and toxic” viewing of porn by children.

The report found that two thirds of children aged 15 or less had seen pornographic content.

The French production industry has been roiled by a series of sexual assault cases in recent years in which women have come forward to allege rape, mistreatment and manipulation by directors and fellow actors.