|AN OFFICER AND A SPYROMAN POLANSKIBOX OFFICEROMA|
Ladj Ly's Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize laureate Les Misérables was the big winner at Friday night's 45th annual César Awards, France's equivalent to the Oscars, including taking the top honor of Best Film. The night unfolded, however, under tumultuous conditions owing to controversy surrounding Roman Polanski, whose An Officer and a Spy was the leading nominee going in with 12 mentions.
The filmmaker was not in attendance, but his film won three prizes including Best Director — an occurrence that caused walkouts from the Salle Pleyel, which earlier in the evening had been the site of protests by feminist organizations.
Polanski on Thursday said he would not attend the local industry's biggest night. “Activists are threatening me with a public lynching. Some have called for demonstrations, others are planning to make it a platform,” he said. “This promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema designed to reward its greatest talents,” the Oscar winner told AFP.
Earlier today, Officer and a Spy producer Alain Goldman told AFP he and the film's team had decided not to attend amid “an escalation of inappropriate and violent language and behavior.” Star Jean Dujardin on Instagram posted a photo from the film whose French title is J'Accuse, a term adopted by protesters against Polanski and wrote, “I'd just like to remind that J'Accuse is the title of a very famous article by Emile Zola, I hope that doesn't bother anyone? Have a good night!”
The Académie des Arts et Techniques du Cinéma is itself in upheaval with the board of its management, the Association for the Promotion of Cinema, having recently announced its intention to resign en masse. That follows upset within the voting membership which has complained of an “elitist and closed” system in which they have “no voice.” A revamp of the Académie is due to begin soon with Amour producer Margaret Menegoz recently named its interim president.
The rest of the evenings nominees included such titles as Ly's Oscar-nominated Les Misérables, Nicolas Bedos' La Belle Epoque and Céline Sciamma's Portrait of a Lady on Fire. The latter included a Best Actress mention for Adèle Haenel, who has made headlines for accusing French director Christophe Ruggia of sexually harassing her from the age of 12, and has been outspoken with regard to the nominations for Polanski.
Here is tonight's full list of winners:
BEST FILMLes Misérables, dir: Ladj Ly
BEST DIRECTORRoman Polanski — An Officer And A Spy
BEST ACTRESSAnais Demoustier — Alice Et Le Maire
BEST ACTORRoschdy Zem — Roubaix, Une Lumière
BEST SUPPORTING ACTORSwann Arlaud — Grace A Dieu
In what felt like a statement against criticisms of the embittered French film academy, controversy magnet Roman Polanski won the Best Director prize at the 2020 César Awards in Paris on Friday for his Dreyfus Affair drama “An Officer and a Spy.” He beat out fellow nominees including Ladj Ly, whose “Les Misérables” ultimately won Best Film, and Céline Sciamma, whose wildly acclaimed “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” went home with just one award, for Best Cinematography. Polanski’s win did not sit well with “Portrait of a Lady on Fire” star Adèle Haenel, who could be seen in the telecast walking out of the ceremony at the Salle Pleyel when the award was announced. Watch below.
Haenel has been an active voice in the #MeToo movement which, as she outlined in a recent New York Times interview, she believes has failed in France. That claim appeared to resonate at the Césars — France’s equivalent to the Academy Awards — when Polanski, a convicted sex offender, won the top directing prize. In fall 2018, Haenel spoke about her own experience with sexual harassment while working with “The Devils” director Christophe Ruggia. Haenel was up for Best Actress at the French awards this year, but lost to Anaïs Demoustier for “Alice and the Mayor.”
Polanski was a no-show at the ceremony, as were his “Officer and a Spy” team members, all of whom boycotted the ceremony earlier this week.
“Activists are threatening me with a public lynching. Some have called for demonstrations, others are planning to make it a platform,” he told Agence France Presse earlier this week. “This promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema designed to reward its greatest talents.”
Polanski, a convicted sex offender, has lived in exile in France since fleeing the United States in 1978. In France, his continuing body of work is well-received. Along with three César trophies for “An Officer and a Spy” on Friday night — directing, adapted screenplay, and costumes — the annual awards have past feted Polanski with Best Director in 2014 for “Venus in Fur,” Best Adapted Screenplay for “Carnage” in 2012, along with multiple prizes each for “The Ghost Writer,” “The Pianist,” and “Tess.”
As the César Awards were underway on Friday, women’s activist groups outside the venue protested Polanski’s inclusion among the nominees.
Adèle forever. pic.twitter.com/Fhe9xSLxCK
— Portrait of a Lady on Fire @Portrait_Movie February 28, 2020
Week three of no theatrical releases. That will technically change soon — Universal’s premium VOD-opening “Trolls World Tour” has a handful of still-open drive-ins to play don’t expect any grosses reported. But it was a week full of important stories, with particular interest in a series of release date adjustments. However, no date can be realized if theaters aren’t open, and nobody knows when that will be.
• Exhibitor trade organization NATO held a webinar Friday. President John Fifthian raised hope that some theaters might be open by late May or early June. AMC Entertainment CEO Adam Aron, who oversees the most screens in North America reiterated his hopes for mid-June.
• With the COVID-19 still in its early stages of national spread, uncertainty about the curve flattening, and signs that in China, which had the earliest outbreaks three months ago, that viral decline doesn’t equal viral defeat, the reality is it could be weeks before anyone can make a reasonable assessment on reopening.
• Countering industry optimism that after weeks indoors, people will flock to theaters is a survey by Performance Research about public attitudes on return to public events. It saw 49 percent of respondents saying feeling safe about returning to theaters ranged from in a few months to never, with 28 percent saying if they do return, it will be less often. That said: This is a snapshot taken nearly two weeks ago, and shouldn’t be considered predictive. It showed similar or worse results for sporting events, concerts, and theme parks.
• Sports league executives spoke with President Trump, who urged resumption as soon as possible. However, Dr. Alan Sills, chief medical officer for the NFL, cautioned it is premature to believe that football can return this fall. Governors in some states that aren’t fully shut down, like Nebraska, encouraged voluntary compliance — with the threat that if the virus isn’t contained, their ardent fans might not have a season. Sports, of course, demand close player and spectator contact, and are more vulnerable even than theaters to the ongoing threat of contagion. But the idea that it is conceivable the country could have a year with no more sports is even more shocking than disruption to theaters.
• The key takeaway from multiple studio release schedule changes is, in re-dating titles, they don’t expect theaters to be fully operational until July at the earliest. Though key June and July titles like Pixar’s “Soul” and Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet” remain in those months, “Mulan” on July 24 is the earliest rescheduled date for any major title. Other date changes act as a diversion while theaters are closed, but the reality is everything is written in pencil, not pen.
Oscar-winning producers Barry Jenkins and Adele Romanski re-team for Eliza Hittman's timely tale of the challenges that face a teenage girl as she seeks an abortion.
As theaters shuttered across the nation amid the coronavirus pandemic, the filmmakers of Never Rarely Sometimes Always had a tough decision to make - wait to release the movie when theaters reopen, or release the film on digital platforms to capitalize on an audience confined to their homes.
Ultimately, for Adele Romanski and Barry Jenkins, who produced the film under their Pastel Productions banner, the story about a teenage girl's journey to get a safe and legal abortion was resonant with the current state of women's reproductive health in America, and so they, along with writer-director Eliza Hittman and distributor Focus Features, opted to release the film on VOD platforms.
"What we do know is that we have a film that's very urgent right now," Romanski tells The Hollywood Reporter. "There continues to be a war on women's health and certain states saying abortions are non-essential medical procedures in response to COVID-19, so we know we have a film that matters."
Written and directed by Hittman Beach Rats, It Felt Like Love and made for under $3 million, Never Rarely Sometimes Always is the story of the teenage Autumn, played by first-time actor Sidney Flanigan, who decides to travel with her cousin Skylar Talia Ryder from her rural Pennsylvania town to New York City to get an abortion. The film delves into the real challenges that the two girls face within the medical system and an unfriendly big city.
The film debuted at Sundance Film Festival this year, where it won a special jury award, and then went on to win the Silver Bear prize at the Berlin Film Festival in February. The film was slated to hit theaters on March 13, but with theaters closing down, it was released on demand on April 3.
"We all believe we have a very powerful piece of art and a very captive audience sitting at home," says Jenkins. "The movie's rated PG-13 and it's really powerful because there's all these kids sitting at home right now trying to figure out what to watch, and while they're doing that, there's states all across the country saying that an abortion is not an essential procedure."
Jenkins and Romanski talked to THR about how Hittman tackled highly politicized issue of abortion with nuance, the biggest production challenges and the decision to bring the film to home screens early.
How did your collaboration with Eliza Hittman come about?
Romanski: We had been fans of Eliza's work since It Felt Like Love, which also debuted at Sundance, and stuck up a friendship as one does on the festival circuit and when we were coming together years later and forming Pastel and thinking about who were the kinds of artists and filmmakers we wanted to...