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'J'accuse' screenings cancelled in France after protest at Roman Polanski

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Film director Roman Polanski in Paris, France, December 9, 2017.
Film director Roman Polanski in Paris, France, December 9, 2017. -
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Screenings of Roman Polanski's latest movie, "J'accuse (An Officer and a Spy)" were cancelled in northern France on Sunday after a feminist group invaded a cinema following fresh allegations of sexual assault against the director.

It comes just days after a similar protest blocked a preview showing in Paris.

"We denounce the recent release of Roman Polanski's film "J'accuse," given that at least 12 women have accused Polanski of sexual aggression; most were children at the time of the acts described," the "J'accusePolanski" feminist group posted on Twitter on Saturday.

The previous day, the group had invaded a screening of the movie in a cinema in Rennes, in the northern Brittany region, leading to its cancellation and that of the three screenings scheduled on Sunday.

They added that it is "scandalous that a criminal paedophile has donned Dreyfus's story as a martyr's cloak" and described it as "yet another slap in the face for his victims, whose numbers have grown increasingly over the past 40 years."

The movie retraces the events leading to the Dreyfus affair — an antisemitic political scandal in 1894 France known for having led to a grave miscarriage of justice. Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish captain in the French army, was sentenced to jail for life for allegedly sharing state secrets with the German embassy in Paris.

Two years later, new evidence surfaced showing the culprit to be an entirely different man but the military authorities suppressed the evidence and cleared him in an expedited trial before heaping new charges on Dreyfus.

Famed author Emile Zola subsequently wrote an open letter, titled "J'accuse", urging the government to reopen the Dreyfus case which served as a rallying cry for the officer's supporters. Another trial eventually took place which again found him guilty and convicted him to a 10-year jail sentence but he was released in 1899. He was pardoned by presidential decree in 1902 and exonerated in 1906.

The movie has won plaudits from critics and been nominated for a European Film Award with Polanski also nominated in the Best Director category.

But fresh allegations of sexual misconduct were levelled at Polanski. French photographer and former actress Valentine Monnier accused the Polish-born director of beating her and raping her in 1975 when she was 18. She said that she cannot file an official complaint anymore but felt compelled to come forward with her story because the movie dealt with a miscarriage of justice.

Polanski has been living in self-imposed exile in France since 1978 when he fled the US before he could be sentenced after pleading guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Since then, he has been accused of sexual misconduct several times, allegations he had always denied.

The TNB cinema in Rennes which cancelled its Sunday screenings has however indicated that it would go ahead with the others.

The film, TNB director Arthur Nauzyciel argued in a letter posted online, "deals with a hot topic and a shameful historical page of our country" which continues to have an impact today.

"Its subject matter justifies the interest," he went on.

Despite the controversy, the movie climbed to the first spot of the box office on the day of its release.

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