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When Harrison Ford flew to France to give Roman Polanski his Oscar

Roman Polanski is often placed at the centre of the omnipresent “art versus artist” debate because of his incredibly troubling legacy. A fugitive who was charged with the sexual abuse of a minor, Polanski has continued to make films in Europe despite the emergence of additional allegations of rape, assault and sexual abuse of a minor.

Polanski’s latest film – An Officer and a Spy – came out in 2019 and it received multiple accolades from various prestigious organisations. Many activists condemned this fanfare because they claimed that such awards were enabling a rapist without holding him unaccountable. Adèle Haenel and Celine Sciamma even walked out of the César Awards in protest when Polanski won in the Best Director category.

Despite the fact that Polanski’s actions have been widely publicised since he escaped from the US in 1978, many leading figures in the world of cinema have continued to collaborate with the director. Ranging from Harrison Ford to Kate Winslet, several top actors in Hollywood have appeared in his films in the years following his conviction.

The infamous Polanski petition was also signed by beloved auteurs like Wes Anderson, Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, Wong Kar-wai and Darren Aronofsky among others who asked for the release of Polanski when he was arrested in Switzerland in 2009. Since then, many of them with names on the petition have claimed that they were forced to sign it.

Asia Argento condemned the petition even though she signed it, saying: “It speaks terribly of the industry. It’s shocking that people like Polanski are still revered, celebrated by actors and fellow filmmakers and cinematheques around the world who continue to not only promote their work, but also to work with them. I hope the tide is finally turning.”

There was a lot of controversy when Polanski’s The Pianist won multiple awards at the Oscars. The film featured Adrien Brody as a musician and Holocaust survivor whose world is turned upside down by the brutality of the Nazi regime. Although it is considered to be one of the greatest cinematic achievements of the decade, it is extremely revealing to revisit Hollywood’s reception.

When Harrison Ford announced that Polanski won, there was widespread cheering including standing ovations from the likes of Martin Scorsese and Harvey Weinstein. Considering that the Polanski petition came later, it is safe to say that the perception of Polanski within the filmmaking circles was overwhelmingly positive.

Due to Polanski’s criminal history, he could not attend the awards show in person because he would immediately be arrested. However, Harrison Ford made a pledge to fly to France to hand Polanski his Oscar and he did just that when he met the controversial director at the Festival of American Film in Deauville.

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