“I stand for justice, not persecution”

Bright red flags flutter on the Lido beach, fitting with the soggy carpet of the Mostra, a few meters away. It is an understatement to say that a warning of heavy weather hovers over the Venice festival, which is held from August 30 to September 9. The controversies accumulate, like the cumulus above the lagoon: selection of three filmmakers suspected of sexual violence, Luc Besson, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski; far-right government interventionism in all directions in the transalpine audiovisual sector; massive presence of films produced or broadcast by streaming platforms – five selections for Netflix alone; strike by Hollywood actors and screenwriters, which cuts into the festival dress with a touch of glamour… Artistic director since 2011, the former Piedmontese critic Alberto Barbera assumes his choices.

Do you understand the indignation aroused by the selection of Luc Besson, Woody Allen and Roman Polanski?

I stand for justice, not persecution. Besson received a dismissal. Allen was acquitted twice in the 1990s. As for Polanski, he asked for an apology from the victim, who accepted it. She wants us to stop stirring up this affair, which dates back more than forty years. One cannot fail to make the distinction between the man and the artist. Art history is filled with sex offenders, even criminals: should we stop admiring Caravaggio’s paintings? In a few decades, we will continue to admire Polanski’s films in the same way. I see no valid reason not to select one of the last masters of cinema in activity, at 90 years old.

Do you expect feminist actions to disrupt the festival?

In Italy, these movements are much less aggressive than in the United States or France. The cases that broke out, in the wake of #metoo, were perfectly justified. I give my absolute support to the fight against sexual violence, but the hostility aimed at filmmakers cleared by the courts is, in my view, unacceptable. Extremism rarely does any good for the causes it claims to serve.

What impact will the actors’ and screenwriters’ strike have in Hollywood?

It will be limited. I had completed the selection on July 12 – two days before the strike escalated, which took us by surprise. We only lost one movie, Challengers, by Luca Guadagnino, who should have opened the festival. The stars of films produced by Netflix, such as Michael Fassbender, Emma Stone, Bradley Cooper or Benedict Cumberbatch, will not come. Others, playing in independent productions, have obtained exemptions. Adam Driver, Jessica Chastain, Caleb Landry Jones or the actors of Priscillaby Sofia Coppola, will walk the red carpet.

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