Venice Film Festival director Alberto Barbera is aware that premiering new films from Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and Luc Besson could warrant “attacks and insults” in light of rape allegations against the respective directors.
Besson’s “Dogman,” Allen’s “Coup de Chance,” and Polanski’s “The Palace” are all premiering at the festival, with “Dogman” the sole film in competition.
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Barbera told The Guardian that there is a stark difference between the intricacies of the cases against each filmmaker. “For which reason should we ban a film from [Allen and Besson] when they’re not guilty in the face of justice?” Barbera said. “Why should we be more strict against them? We need to have faith in the justice system.”
Besson was recently cleared of all charges filed by actress Sand Van Roy, who accused the director of rape in 2018. Allen was not charged despite the multiple molestation claims by his adopted daughter, Dylan.
In contrast, Polanski left the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl who has since defended the director. Polanski has denied the sexual misconduct claims from five other women.
“I discussed the issue with all my collaborators and colleagues,” Barbera said. “We knew that we would face attacks and insults. But this is the moment we’re living in, there is a special kind of sensibility about these issues.”
Barbera added “Annie Hall” director Allen’s situation is “completely different” from Polanski’s position.
“After almost 25 years, why should we keep on banning his films?” Barbera said of Allen. “It’s impossible to release his films in the U.S. now, which is absolutely unbelievable.”
Barbera continued, “Polanski is one of the last great masters of European cinema. He made huge mistakes 50 years ago. He recognized that he was guilty. He asked to be forgiven by the victim, and the victim gave her forgiveness. I’m not a judge who is asked to make a judgment about the bad behavior of someone.”
The festival director added that there is a distinction “between the man and the artist,” saying, “I’m a film critic, my job is judging the quality of his films. But of course, it’s a very difficult situation. I’m pretty sure in some decades’ time, everyone will have forgotten about the history of the rape from Polanski, but they will still admire his films.”
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