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Venice Film Festival Lineup Is Stacked With Creeps

This year’s Venice Film Festival will follow in the footsteps of Cannes earlier this year and give more time and space to terrible men. Of course, there are perfectly fine films on the docket, including Bradley Cooper’s second directorial project, Maestro, and Sofia Coppola’s latest film, Priscilla, a biopic of Elvis Presley’s ex-wife. Then, there are Roman Polanski, Woody Allen, and Luc Besson.

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Polanski was charged with sexual assault of a 13-year-old in the ’70s and cannot step foot in the States without being arrested. Allen has never been charged, but he has been accused by his adoptive daughter, Dylan Farrow, of molesting her when she was seven. Besson has recently had multiple accusations of sexual misconduct and rape.

When interviewed by Variety, Venice Film Festival artistic director Alberto Barbera dismissed the idea that there’s any issue with screening their work, saying, “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.”

He added, “I am a festival director, not a judge. I judge the artistic qualities of films. And from this perspective, I don’t see why I should not invite Polanski’s film to Venice … to keep beating on Polanski means seeking a scapegoat for other situations that would deserve more attention.”

To say something like this is ignorant at best. But even then, how can he continue to be ignorant in a time after the cases against Harvey Weinstein came to light, which resulted in the larger MeToo movement and Weinstein being put behind bars? Is it a typical thinking of “Oh, well, it doesn’t affect me, therefore I can bury my head in the sand”? Saying that he’s not a judge doesn’t excuse his enabling. If you let terrible people enjoy success and don’t give them consequences, nothing will ever change—not to mention that we’ve talked the limitations of the legal system on these issues to death.

Creative industries, especially Hollywood, do not care about women or the abuse that they suffer at the hands of men, especially ones who are in positions of power. We saw that with Weinstein, we saw it with Johnny Depp and Amber Heard—Depp literally received a SEVEN-MINUTE standing ovation after his latest film, Jeanne du Barry, premiered at Cannes earlier this year. Hollywood is doused in toxicity: toxic men and toxic work environments.

So how, then, does the industry expect to move forward if they keep not just including these men but elevating them, whether or not their films are Oscar-worthy? Barbera’s further comments about separating the art from the artist are a cop out, as is putting everything on the legal system, when one of the biggest topics of discussion in the MeToo movement has been the shortcomings of the legal system on this subject. There’s no downside to excluding these men, and yet, Barbera still can’t bring himself to do it.

Meanwhile, the only film that has dropped out of the festival is Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers, a tennis drama starring Zendaya and Josh O’Connor. This was against Gaudagnino’s wishes, according to Barbera, and the movie’s release has been pushed back until 2024. This isn’t clear whether or not it’s due to the strikes or the film not yet being complete.

Barbera also noted that despite the current SAG-AFTRA strike, “the red carpet won’t be empty,” as there are many independent films that will be screened at the festival. He explained that films that are not indie are asking SAG for waivers to be able to attend Venice and that they will be considered “very shortly” and that he hopes there are “no problems.”

(featured image: Tristan Fewings / Stringer)


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Author
Brooke Pollock
Brooke Pollock is a UK-based entertainment journalist who talks incessantly about her thoughts on pop culture. She can often be found with her headphones on listening to an array of music, scrolling through social media, at the cinema with a large popcorn, or laying in bed as she binges the latest TV releases. She has almost a year of experience and her core beat is digital culture.