A controversial retrospective honoring Roman Polanski erupted in protest Monday evening in Paris.
Several members of France’s topless activist group Femen crashed their way inside the nation’s film museum, shouting “No honor for rapists!” at the director before a ceremony honoring his lifetime work.
Outside the Cinematheque, nearly one hundred feminists gathered outside the event, greeting the Oscar-winning director and invitees with boos, signs and protest songs.
The 84-year-old director of such films as Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, and The Pianist was attending the French premiere of his latest filmed Based On A True Story at the invitation of the state-funded film museum. While the protest also concerned his 1977 conviction for child molestation, it was more than equally fueled by the fact that four new victims have come forward against him in recent months.
Polanski holds joint French-Polish nationality and has lived in Paris, enjoying relatively comfortable notoriety since fleeing the U.S in 1978 after serving only 42 days in a California prison over a rape conviction. In French residence, he has continued to make films, often attracting big-name stars, while lawyers representing him have fought a continual battle to exonerate his name in the U.S..
Though France and the U.S. do not share a treaty which would allow his extradition, legal battles have also been successfully prevented his return to the U.S. from other European countries. He was famously caught and held in 2009 by airport authorities in Zurich before a Swiss court ordered his release.
The long-planned Polanski tribute in Paris has built controversy since its announcement.
An online campaign against the Cinematheque’s selection, questioning the propriety of continuing the scheduled event in the light of the Harvey Weinstein allegations generated a petition of over 28,000 signatures. Multiple charges against Weinstein have come directly from a roster of the France’s most popular actresses including Eva Green, Lea Seydoux, and Juliette Binoche.
Last Friday, France’s new Minister of Culture Francoise Nyssen defended her continued support for the Polanski retrospective saying, it was honoring “a body of work, not a man” and that she refused to “condemn a body of work.” Consistent with the Minister’s position, Cinematheque officials, including director Costa-Gravas, were adamant in not changing or cancelling their scheduled event despite the well-publicized protest threats.
In January, facing similar public outcry and organized online campaign, Polanski stepped away from chairing France’s annual César awards.