Roman Polanski was shamed out of presiding over the Cesar awards, France's equivalent to the Academy Awards, after his nomination sparked a 61,000-signature petition against him and calls to boycott the show.
Polanski, the Oscar-winning director of 2002's "The Pianist," is a fugitive in the United States and has been wanted by authorities after he pleaded guilty in 1977 to one count of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor, The Guardian reported. He fled to France in 1978.
France's Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma recently announced that Polanski, 83, would succeed Claude Lelouch as president, The Independent reported.
"Artist, film-maker, producer, screenwriter, actor, director – there are many words to define Roman Polanski," the Academie stated, according to The Independent. "But there is only one to express our admiration and enchantment: thank you, Mr. President."
The announcement brought outrage from feminist groups in France, with some calling for a boycott of the Cesar awards, according to Agence France-Presse.
"We are extremely angry," Claire Serre-Combe, spokeswoman for the group Osez le feminisme (Dare feminism), told AFP in calling for protest against the academy and Polanski. "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," Serre-Combe continued.
Former French culture minister Aurelie Filippetti defended Polanski and added that protesters were making too much of the crime, AFP reported.
"It is something that happened 40 years ago," Filippetti told French public radio, noted AFP. "One cannot bring up this affair every time we talk about him because there was a problem back then. It is just an awards ceremony, we should not give any more importance to it that than that."
Polanski's lawyer told AFP Tuesday that he would not preside over the Césars because of what he called the "unjustified" controversy it has created, The Guardian noted.
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