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French feminists on Monday disrupted the opening ceremony of a planned retrospective of Roman Polanski’s work by the Cinematheque Francaise as the director appeared to present his latest film, Based on a True Story.
The activists entered the theater bare-chested with slogans reading “VIP – Very Important Pedocriminal” painted across their backs and chanted “No honor for the rapists” as Polanski signed autographs.
The demonstrators were quickly surrounded and removed from the building by security.
Additional protests against the Polish-French filmmaker continued outside, organized by groups Femen and Osez le Feminisme. Several dozen protesters stationed outside the theater chanted, “Enough of those who want to protect the aggressors!”
Several signs read, “If rape is an art, give Polanski all the Cesars,” a reference to the French film award.
The Pianist director pleaded guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. Polanski fled the U.S. before his sentencing in 1978 and has not returned.
Two additional women had come forward since 2010, claiming additional assaults, and following the recent Harvey Weinstein scandal, two more have made similar allegations against Polanski. On Oct. 3, former model Renate Langer said the filmmaker raped her at a house in Switzerland in 1972 when she was 15. And on Oct. 20, artist Marianne Barnard alleged that Polanski molested her during a photo shoot on a California beach in 1975 when she was 10 years old.
Femen and Osez le Feminisme asked the Cinematheque Francaise to cancel the Polanski retrospective as the new allegations came to light and launched an online petition that gathered more than 27,000 signatures as of Monday.
“It’s an insult to all the women who mobilized around the #MeToo and #BalanceTonPorc hashtags, and an affront to all rape victims, particularly Polanski’s victims,” wrote activist Laure Salmona in the petition.
The protests come in the midst of the Weinstein controversy, which has rocked the film industry in the U.S., and French women have joined in the chorus of #MeToo and have shared their stories of assault and harassment with #BalanceTonPorc. Meaning “squeal on your pig,” #BalanceTonPorc was started in reaction to the nickname Weinstein had earned around Cannes for his activities during the film festival.
In response to the call for protests, Cinematheque Francaise president Costa-Gavras said the film body would not change its plans to hold the retrospective. “We have nothing to discuss with the people demanding that La Cinematheque Francaise abandons its fundamental mission: to tirelessly show the works of great filmmakers,” he said in a statement. Costa-Gavras said the film body would not “take the place of the justice system.”
The protest follows continuous opposition from French feminist groups to the director’s activities. They called for a protest earlier this year when Polanski was set to preside over the Cesar Awards in an honorary role. He stepped down from that event before the ceremony to avoid the protests.
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