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Fugitive Roman Polanski Wins Venice Film Festival Award

By  Paul Bois
French-Polish director Roman Polanski stands on the red carpet of the 45th Deauville US Film Festival, in Deauville, northern France on September 7, 2019.
LOU BENOIST / Contributor / Getty Images

It seems that not even the #MeToo movement has derailed Roman Polanski’s chances of achieving accolades despite his status as a fugitive of justice after admitting to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl and then fleeing to Europe in the late-70s.

Roman Polanski has won the Grand Jury Prize for ‘An Officer and a Spy,’ despite controversy over the director’s inclusion at Venice Film Festival,” reports The Independent. “The film has received positive reviews but also controversy regarding Polanski, who was convicted of statutory rape in 1978 and has faced other allegations of sexual assault.”

Polanski did not attend the festival. Instead, his wife Emmanuelle Seigner collected the prize for him. Argentine director Lucrecia Martel, who chaired the jury, said his film’s inclusion made her “uncomfortable” while also defending its right to compete.

“I will not congratulate him, but I think it is correct that his movie is here at this festival,” said Martel at the festival’s opening.

In May of last year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences finally expelled Roman Polanski from their midst only to have him file a lawsuit one year later, alleging that the Academy had failed to follow its own rules when ousting a member from their ranks.

“The Academy committed a prejudicial abuse of discretion in that the Academy failed to proceed in a manner required by law, the Academy’s expulsion decision is not supported by the findings, and the Academy’s findings are not supported by the evidence,” Polanski said in a lawsuit filed in L.A. Superior Court.

Polanski’s attorney, Harland Braun, demanded that Polanski be reinstated “as an Academy member in good standing,” a status he enjoyed for over 40 years.

“The Academy failed to comply with its own rules, policies, and regulations in expelling Petitioner without notice, without an opportunity to be heard, and deliberately violated California Corporations Code,” said Braun.

In response to the lawsuit, an Academy spokesperson said the procedure for his expulsion was “fair and reasonable.”

“The procedures taken to expel Mr. Polanski were fair and reasonable,” an Academy spokesperson said Friday afternoon, according to Deadline. “The Academy stands behind its decision as appropriate.”

Strangely, at the time of Polanski’s ouster from the Academy, his rape victim, Samantha Geimer, said the Academy made an “ugly and cruel” decision.

“It is an ugly and cruel action which serves only appearance,” said Geimer, then age 55. “It does nothing to change the sexist culture in Hollywood today and simply proves that they will eat their own to survive. I say to Roman, good riddance to bad rubbish, the Academy has no true honor, it’s all just P.R.”

Geimer was only 13 years old when Polanski drugged and sodomized her during a photo shoot at Jack Nicholson’s house in 1977. During the height of the #MeToo movement, as many as five women came forward to accuse Roman Polanski of sexual assault when they were teenagers.

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