On Thursday, the 2019 Venice International Film Festival announced its line-up for its 76th edition. With that, the world’s oldest film festival is already drawing criticism over one controversial inclusion as well as a lack of representation.
Roman Polanski’s An Officer and a Spy will compete despite the director’s shady past, reported The Hollywood Reporter.
Polanski was charged with raping a minor in 1977 in Los Angeles, where, according to Rolling Stone, he later admitted to the charges against the 13-year-old girl. He left the country and has not been back since.
The Rosemary’s Baby director has since been accused of sexual assault by four other women and was subsequently expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Now, Venice International Film Festival chief Alberto Barbera has defended the event’s inclusion of Polanski’s latest film.
The movie is an adaptation of the book of the same name by Robert Harris and stars Emmanuelle Seigner, Louis Garrel and Jean Dujardin.
“We are here to see works of art, not to judge the person behind it. I hope we can just discuss about the quality of the film and not about Polanski and the case with L.A. County,” he told The Hollywood Reporter.
“I think we should always make a distinction between the artist and the man. History or art is full of artists who were assassins, criminals, had extremely bad behavior,” Barbera continued calling Polanski one of Europe’s last great filmmakers.
“If someone commits a crime, you should put them in jail. But this doesn’t mean that we should forget that he is an artist and did some works of art that are part of our film history and cultural heritage.”
In the same interview, Barbera also talked about the festival’s lack of female directors. Out of 21 directors in competition at the festival, only two are women. This is because, out of 1,800 films that the festival received, only 23 per cent were directed by women, according to Barbera
The International Union of Cinemas, which represents a series of European movie theaters, is also upset by the inclusion of films from streaming companies. According to Deadline, Netflix has three contenders this year, including The King, The Laundromat and Marriage Story. Amazon’s Seberg is also competing.
The Union’s objections are over the fact that these films aren’t accessible to everyone and that the festival should only be for movies that get a traditional theater release.
The film festival will run from August 28 to September 7, and will take place at the Venice Lido.