Roman Polanski and Woody Allen

Venice Film Fest Director Shakes Off Controversy Over Woody Allen, Roman Polanski Films: ‘I Don’t See Where the Issue Is’

It was expected that the Venice Film Festival would program two films from controversy-courting directors this year, Roman Polanski’s “The Palace” and Woody Allen’s “Coup de Chance,” already predicted for the event running August 30 through September 9. And what’s also expected is the inevitable mix of backlash and appreciation for including the auteurs, who in European countries fare better than in the United States and often comfortably find distribution for new work. Polanski has admitted to, and been accused of, sexual abuse throughout his career and forgiven by his victim Samantha Greiner in the years since he was arrested and charged for raping her when she was 13 in 1977. Allen has denied abusing Dylan Farrow in 1992 and was not charged with a crime.

In an interview with Variety discussing this year’s Venice lineup, festival director Alberto Barbera reaffirmed his commitment to presenting their new films, saying he does not “see where the issue is.”

“Luc Besson has been recently fully cleared of any accusations,” Barbera said when asked about potential clamor over including films from those directors, as well as Besson, who was recently cleared of longstanding rape charges stemming from accusations in 2018.

“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,” Barbera continued. “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. I am on the side of those who say you have to distinguish between the responsibilities of the individual and that of the artist.”

Barbera added, “Also, 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.”

Both “The Palace” and “Coup de Chance” screen out of competition this year at Venice. Polanski currently lives beyond extradition in France while Allen maintains his residence in New York, though Barbera said he’s only expecting one of them to attend or greet press this year on the Lido: “I’m not sure (Roman Polanski) will be doing press, but Woody Allen is coming to the film’s premiere for sure.”

“Coup de Chance” is a French-language thriller starring Valerie Lemercier, Niels Schneider, Lou de Laage, and Melvil Poupaud. Polanski’s dark comedy “The Palace,” set in 1999 Switzerland, stars Oliver Masucci, Fanny Ardant, John Cleese, and Mickey Rourke. Both films have already found distribution homes throughout Europe.