The 2019 Venice Film Festival officially kicked off with a press conference featuring the event’s chief, Alberto Barbera, and this year’s jury president Lucrecia Martel, the Argentine director behind “La Ciénaga,” “The Headless Woman,” and “Zama.” As reported by Deadline, one of the most pressing topics discussed was the inclusion of Roman Polanski in this year’s competition lineup. The French director is debuting his Dreyfus affair drama “An Officer and a Spy,” starring Emmanuelle Seigner, Louis Garrel, Jean Dujardin, and Mathieu Amalric.
The Venice Film Festival has been under fire for including Polanski in this year’s competition because the director was charged with rape in the 1970s. The #MeToo era has put a new focus on Polanski’s behavior, resulting in his expulsion from the Academy in May 2018. Barbera continued to defend Polanski’s inclusion at Venice 2019 during the opening press conference.
“[I am] convinced that we have to distinguish necessarily between the artist and the man,” Barbera said. “The history of art is full of artists who committed crimes of a different nature, nevertheless we have continued to admire their works of art. The same is true for Polanski who is in my opinion one of the last masters still active in European cinema.”
Martel said she “does not separate the man from the art” but she explained why Polanski’s case is more complicated to judge. “A man who commits a crime of this size who is then condemned, and the victim considers herself satisfied with the compensation, is difficult for me to judge,” she said. “It is difficult to define what is the right approach we have to take with people who have committed certain acts and were judged for them. I think these questions are part of the debate in our times.”
“I will not congratulate him, but I think it is correct that his movie is here at this festival,” Martel added. “We have to develop our dialogue with him and this is the best possible place to go on with this type of discussion.”
While Martel said she supports Polanski’s inclusion in this year’s Venice competition, she did mention she will not attend a dinner organized during the festival for Polanski’s movie. The 2019 Venice Film Festival kicks off today with Hirokazu Kore-eda’s “The Truth” and runs through September 7.
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