Venice Boss Defends Allen & Polanski Inclusion

Controversial Film Selections Spark Heated Debate at Venice.

by Nouman Rasool
Venice Boss Defends Allen & Polanski Inclusion

Amidst mounting controversy, the Venice Film Festival finds itself at the center of heated debates as it stands by its decision to include films by renowned directors Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and Luc Besson in its official lineup.

Critics and activists have raised strong objections, calling for cancellations and boycotts. However, Venice's artistic director, Alberto Barbera, remains steadfast in his defense, asserting the legitimacy of the directors' inclusion.

In an interview with THR Roma, Barbera articulated his rationale for featuring Allen and Besson's films, emphasizing that both directors were exonerated from the accusations against them. Besson never faced trial, and Allen was acquitted twice, two decades ago.

Barbera contends that revisiting these past allegations is unnecessary and that their artistic contributions should be separated from personal controversies. The case of Roman Polanski, whose history is more complex, elicits a nuanced response from Barbera.

He acknowledges that the Polanski case has been a subject of intense debate for over half a century, but he questions the need to conflate the man's personal actions with his artistic accomplishments. At 90 years old, Polanski is viewed as one of the few working masters in cinema, and his latest film, "The Palace," is hailed as extraordinary.

Barbera draws attention to Polanski's admission of responsibility and the victim's forgiveness, advocating for a distinction between the individual's actions and the merits of their art.

Divergent Responses to Film Selections

Venice's decision to showcase the films has sparked mixed reactions, differing from the more cautious stance taken by Cannes boss Thierry Fremaux.

Fremaux cited potential controversies and overshadowing of other films as reasons to avoid selecting Allen's work. Polanski's film was initially deemed not ready for inclusion. Luc Besson, on the other hand, has recently been completely cleared of any accusations, and the controversy surrounding him seems less pronounced.

Nonetheless, Barbera stands resolute in his commitment to evaluating films based on their artistic merits, rather than delving into legal matters that have been resolved. The three films, Allen's "Coup de Chance," Besson's "Dogman," and Polanski's "The Palace," will be showcased during the festival's first seven days.

Woody Allen is expected to attend the world premiere of his film, while Polanski's attendance remains hindered due to obvious reasons. With Venice Film Festival firmly standing by its controversial selections, the debate surrounding the role of artists' personal lives and their artistic contributions rages on.

Barbera's firm stance reaffirms his position as a festival director, prioritizing the artistic qualities of the films presented, while leaving the role of judging personal actions to appropriate authorities. As the festival approaches, the world watches to see how these contentious inclusions will impact the event and its broader implications in the realm of filmmaking and cultural discourse.