The French Film Academy’s annual awards show The César Awards took place last night (29 February), but it’s not the awards themselves making headlines. Instead, the focus is on the actions of A Portrait Of A Lady On Fire star Adèle Haenel, whose decision to walk out of the ceremony after convicted rapist Roman Polanski was named best director has been making waves online.
Haenel, who is known for her roles in films including Love at First Fight and The Unknown Girl, walked out in protest as the disgraced director, who has been convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl, took home the award for best director for his film An Officer And A Spy.
As Haenel made her way into the lobby of the Salle Pleyel, where the awards show was being held, she was filmed saying “Bravo la pédophilie!”.
Several other people also joined Haenel in her decision to walk out of the ceremony, including A Portrait Of A Lady On Fire director Celine Sciamma and Haenel’s co-star Noémie Merlant, as crowds of protestors gathered outside the concert hall to add their voices to the protests.
Haenel become one of the country’s first high-profile actors to speak out over abuse in France’s film industry at the end of last year, when she accused director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her for years, starting when she was 12 (Ruggia has since been arrested). Since then, other stories have followed, including an accusation by the photographer Valentine Monnier that Polanski raped her in 1975 when she was 18. The director denies the accusation.
Late last month, Haenel added her voice to protests against Polanski’s nomination in an interview with The New York Times.
“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn’t that bad,” she said.
“There is a #MeToo paradox in France: it is one of the countries where the movement was the most closely followed on social media, but from a political perspective and in cultural spheres, France has completely missed the boat.”
Polanski plead guilty and was convicted of raping a 13-year-old girl in the US in 1977, but fled the country before he could be sentenced. The director has been living in exile in France ever since.
Responses to Haenel’s protest on Twitter have praised the actor for her bravery and defiance, with the hashtag #merciaadelehaenel being used to honour the actions of the A Portrait Of A Lady on Fire actor.
“To award rapist Roman Polanski for best director in response to women being vocal about sexual assault in France, in today’s #metoo era, is the most backwards shit I’ve ever heard in my life,” one response read. “Adèle, you’re a brave hero and icon for survivors everywhere.”
“The way that she walked out of there, not meekly or quietly, but with her head held high voicing her disgust is truly admirable,” another person wrote. “There is no mistaking why she left. What a moment. What a woman. We have decided to stan FOREVER.”
And a third added: “Last night Adèle haenel, along with Céline Sciamma and Noémie Merlant made a clear stand. Adéle is forcing those who would like to look away, to watch. Her head is held high because she knows she is on the right side of history. A resistance found a flame.”
Neither Polanski nor the crew of An Office And A Spy attended the ceremony because of the public outrage at their nominations.
Images: Getty/Lilies Films