Venice Film Festival Director Defends Invites to Woody Allen, Roman Polanski, and Luc Besson
Despite ongoing strikes in Hollywood that led to the exodus of Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers from its opening slot last week, the Venice Film Festival will proceed—but not without a wave of early backlash.
When the prestigious festival unveiled its lineup on Tuesday, alongside films from Sofia Coppola, David Fincher, Ava DuVernay, and Bradley Cooper were works from a trio of men accused of sexual misconduct. Woody Allen’s Coup de Chance and Roman Polanski’s The Palace each scored out-of-competition slots, while Luc Besson will debut his new feature, DogMan, in competition at the fest.
“Luc Besson has been recently fully cleared of any accusations. Woody Allen went under legal scrutiny twice at the end of the ’90s and was absolved. With them, I don’t see where the issue is,” Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera told Variety in defense of their inclusion in the lineup.
Allen, whose next film is his first entirely in French, has been accused of sexual abuse against his adopted daughter in 1992, allegations for which he was never charged and which he has denied. Since 2018, multiple women have alleged sexual misconduct against Besson, who denies any wrongdoing and was cleared of rape accusations by a French court last month.
Polanski is the lone filmmaker in this group to be criminally charged for a sex crime. In 1977, he pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He’s been living mostly in France since 1978, when he fled the United States on the eve of receiving his sentence because he believed the judge was going to send him to prison. He has since been accused of sexual abuse in 2010, 2017, and 2019, totaling six allegations altogether. Polanski denies all the claims and even reportedly threatened to sue his most recent accuser.
“In Polanski’s case, it’s paradoxical,” Barbera argued. “It’s been 60 years. Polanski has admitted his responsibility. He’s asked to be forgiven. He’s been forgiven by the victim. The victim has asked for the issue to be put to rest. I think that to keep beating on Polanski means seeking a scapegoat for other situations that would deserve more attention,” he continued, adding, “I am on the side of those who say you have to distinguish between the responsibilities of the individual and that of the artist.”
Polanski will not be attending the festival, which runs from August 30 to September 9. Barbera is “not sure” that Allen “will be doing press,” but “he is coming to the film’s premiere for sure.”