Disgraced film director Roman Polanski won big at a French award show Friday, prompting protests inside and outside of the ceremony led by critics of the convicted sex criminal.

Several attendees of the annual French Film Academy’s César Awards walked out of the Paris concert hall where the event was held after Polanski won the top prize of best director.

Others gathered outside the venue expressed their outrage by attempting to storm the city’s Salle Pleyel hall, resulting in clashes between anti-Polanski protesters and police.

Polanski, a Polish-French citizen, pleaded guilty in the U.S. more than 40 years ago to having unlawful sex with an underage girl, but he fled the country before being sentenced.

He has continued to make films in the decades since, notwithstanding being considered a fugitive of the U.S. justice system.



Polanski’s latest movie — “An Officer and a Spy,” or “J’accuse” in French — was nominated for 12 awards at this year’s César ceremony, considered France’s equivalent to the Oscars.

Adele Haenel, a French actress who has said she was sexually abused as a child by a different director, stormed out of the event upon Polanski being named best director.

Video from the awards ceremony showed several other attendees similarly walking out of the ceremony afterward in an apparent act of protest.

“Bravo la pédophilie,” Ms. Haenel chanted sarcastically as she exited the event.

Anti-Polanski protesters pulled down a safety barricade outside of the venue, meanwhile, prompting pushback from French police, Reuters and The New York Times each reported.

Polanski, 86, purposely skipped the ceremony on account of the expected protests.

“Activists are threatening me with a public lynching. Some have called for demonstrations, others are planning to make it a platform,” he said in a statement earlier this week, Agence France Presse reported. “This promises to look more like a symposium than a celebration of cinema designed to reward its greatest talents.”

In addition to winning the award for best director, Polanski’s film also received this year’s César for best adapted screenplay and best costume designer.

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