Chief Editor: Ansar Mahmood Bhatti

Rape rows risk taking sheen off starry Venice film festival

VENICE (DNA) – The star-studded Venice film festival opens Wednesday with a row raging about the inclusion of controversial directors Roman Polanski and Nate Parker.With only two women directors out of 21 in the running for its Golden Lion top prize, campaigners have lashed the festival — now the launchpad for the Oscars.Director Alberto Barbera said last year that he would rather quit the 11-day event — where three of the last five Oscar best picture winners were premiered — than give in to pressure for quotas.But feminist critics have only upped their attacks, accusing the festival of “almost comically scant levels of self-awareness”.

“1 rapist. 2 women directors in competition at Venice. What else am I missing?” tweeted Women and Hollywood founder Melissa Silverstein, referring to Polanski’s conviction for the statutory rape of a 13-year-old in 1978.

She was equally scathing about the late addition of US director Parker’s film “American Skin” to a sidebar section.

“Good job Venice,” she tweeted caustically, adding a reference to a rape trial the actor-turned-director was embroiled in while still at university.


Fury over Polanski and Parker


Parker’s 2016 debut film about a slave revolt, “The Birth of a Nation”, was derailed after it emerged that he was accused of raping a fellow student, who later killed herself.

Although Parker was acquitted, he later admitted that when “I look back on that time as a teenager and can say without hesitation that I should have used more wisdom”.

Fellow black American director Spike Lee has vowed to travel to Venice to support “brave” Parker.

“I haven’t been affected by a film like this… in a long, long time,” he said in a statement about the movie in which a Marine veteran whose son is killed by the police takes justice into his own hands.

But it is the premiere of 85-year-old Polanski’s historical thriller about the persecution of the French Jewish army officer Alfred Dreyfus, “An Officer and a Spy”, which is likely to make most headlines.

With Polanski suing the Academy of Motion Pictures for stripping him of his membership, Screen Daily’s chief critic Fionnuala Halligan was withering about his selection.

She imagined festival director “Barbera, wandering the Lido hopelessly, singing the same mournful refrain… he can’t find a female film director.

“So this year he’s going to programme the new film by (a) convicted child rapist.”

The message was “crystal clear”, she added: “You don’t cut it, ladies.”