Venice director defends Allen, Polanski, Besson invites

The Venice Film Festival has faced some criticism over including new films by Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Luc Besson.

Venice Allen Polanski

As much buzz as there always is surrounding the Venice Film Festival, this year has garnered some additional attention for what many are considering to be immoral decisions. For this year’s Venice Film Festival, it’s the invitations extended to Woody Allen, Roman Polanski and Luc Besson – three filmmakers with sordid pasts to say the least – that have caused backlash.

But first, some brief context. Besson was accused of rape five years ago, although the director was cleared of all charges. Allen has faced allegations of sexual abuse and hasn’t never been shy about casting himself with younger women, such as in Manhattan, where he dates a teen. Polanski committed statutory rape on a 13-year-old girl, who has since gone on to forgive him; the Academy, not so much (despite that Oscar…).

Now, Alberto Barbera, the artistic director for the 80th Venice Film Festival, is defending screening films from the likes of Allen, Polanski and Besson. Speaking with Variety, Barbera said,  “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. In Polanski’s case, it’s paradoxical. 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. That aside, there is a cultural debate underway about Polanski with less rigid positions being taken.”

Regarding the involvement of Allen, Polanski and Besson at the Venice Film Festival later this year, he took the “art vs. artist” defense, “I am on the side of those who say you have to distinguish between the responsibilities of the individual and that of the artist…”

Allen and Polanski will bring Coup de Chance and The Palace, respectively, to Venice, while Besson, who is the only one of the three competing for the Golden Lion, has Dogman.

What do you think? Should Woody Allen and Roman Polanski continue to be invited to festivals or should they be ignored throughout the industry?