French Oscars need 'profound reform' after Polanski's inclusion, sidelining feminists

Cesar Academy had earlier said it could not be expected to take 'moral positions' when awarding films

Roman Polanski's film 'An Officer and a Spy' tops this year's nominations for the Cesars which have come under fire from film industry personalities. AFP/Thomas Samson/Files

Over 200 actors, producers, directors, and movie personalities on Tuesday demanded "profound reform" of France's equivalent of the Oscars executive, the Cesar Academy, which they accused of being out of touch.

The academy is already under fire after Roman Polanski's new film An Officer and a Spy topped the list of nominations for this year's Cesar awards which will be handed out on February 28.

Polanski has been wanted in the US for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl since 1978 and is persona non grata in Hollywood.

Read more: Former French model accuses Polanski of raping her as a teen

But the Cesar Academy has also been widely criticised for allegedly excluding director Claire Denis and writer Virginie Despentes, both considered feminist activists, from a ceremony to announce the contenders for this year's Cesars.

In an open letter, dozens of film industry personalities — including actors Omar Sy, Berenice Bejo, and Jean-Pierre Bacri, producer siblings Eric and Nicolas Altmayer, and director Jerome Salle — denounced "dysfunction" at the academy and an "opaqueness" of its accounts.

They also complained that the founding statutes of the Cesars had not changed "for a very long time" and that the academy's nearly 5,000 paid-up members do not get a vote or a say in its decisions.

What we know of Polanski rape case after 40 years?

The academy's board, in response to the letter, said it would ask the National Centre for Cinema, a culture ministry agency, to appoint a mediator that will be in charge of "deep reform" of its statutes and governance.

It has previously announced measures to boost women's representation in its membership and representation.

The inclusion of Polanski's film on the Cesars' shortlist was condemned by France's equality minister, women's groups, and film critics but the Cesar Academy said it could not be expected to take "moral positions" when awarding films.

Also read: Feminist activists protest against Polanski film screening in Brussels

A number of French feminist groups — including the Osez Le Feminisme! (Dare Feminism!) collective — published an open letter on the website of the daily Le Parisien late Tuesday urging Cesar voters to snub Polanski's film, which is titled J'accuse in France.

"To celebrate an abuser like Polanski is to support the system of impunity for male violence, and silence the voices of the victims," the letter said.

The feminist groups also called for a protest outside the award ceremony, which is to be held in Paris's Salle Pleyel auditorium.