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Polanski wins best director at Cesars, prompting walkout protest

The French-Polish director’s dozen nominations had divided opinion in France, a country where the #MeToo movement that inspired women globally to out powerful men for sexual misconduct has struggled to gain traction.

Polanski, 86, whose film also picked up awards for best adaptation and best costume designer, stayed away from the event, saying he feared he would be lynched.Controversy had swirled around the inclusion in the awards programme of Polanski, who fled the United States for France in the late 1970s after admitting raping a 13-year-old girl, and faces more recent allegations of sexual assault.

Polanski denies the latest accusations against him.During the ceremony, the biggest night on the French cinema calendar, Polanski served as both lightning rod and punch line, with the ceremony’s host quipping about paedophilia.

“It is the last (event) of one era and the first of another,” actress Sandrine Kiberlain said.Among those who left the venue early was leading actress Adele Haenel, who last year revealed she had been sexually abused as a child by another director.

Haenel told the New York Times before the ceremony that France had “missed the boat” on #MeToo and criticised the Cesar Awards for recognising Polanski.“Distinguishing Polanski is spitting in the face of all victims. It means raping women isn’t that bad,” she said.

Protesters outside clashed with police shortly before the biggest names in French film arrived at the Pleynel concert hall, but none made it onto the red carpet.

Nearby, other protesters peacefully waved placards reading “Shame on an industry that protects rapists.”olanski’s cast and production team boycotted the Cesars on Friday after Culture Minister Franck Riester said the success of a director accused of sexual violence would send the wrong signal in the #MeToo era.

French photographer Valentine Monnier last year accused Polanski of raping her in 1975 when she was an 18-year-old model and actress. Polanski has denied the charge.

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