Why Do Awards And Festivals Honor Controversial Artists Like Roman Polanski?

It seems odd that either the Locarno Film Festival or Roman Polanski thought that honoring the filmmaker for lifetime achievement would be a good idea. This is the second recent time — after Woody Allen’s Golden Globe tribute was followed by a phalanx of nasty tweets from his ex-wife Mia Farrow and estranged biological son Ronan Farrow — that an award sparked more shame than honor on its recipient.

Citing “unacceptable interference of some in the artistic liberty of the Festival,” Locarno announced today that Polanski pulled out of the Swiss fest’s 67th edition scheduled for later this week. This followed threats that protests would result at the festival over Polanski’s decades-old decision to flee the U.S. on charges of unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. He hasn’t been back to the U.S. since and likely won’t, as he is now 80. It’s hard to imagine him thinking he’d get any other kind of greeting. He ought to know; Polanski was arrested five years ago on the way to accept a lifetime achievement prize in Zurich.

Polanski, who would have premiered his new film Venus In Fur, issued the following statement:

Dear Friends,

I am sorry to inform you that having considered the extent to which my planned appearance at the Locarno Festival provokes tensions and controversies among those opposed to my visit, even as I respect their opinions, it is with a heavy heart that I must cancel my visit.

I am deeply saddened to disappoint you.

Roman Polanski

This was the announcement from Locarno Film Festival Artistic Director Carlo Chatrian:

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  1. Polanski should be arrested by Interpol and shipped back to the U.S. to face his punishment. Stop supporting this criminal as an artist.

  2. It infuriates me that my peers continue to work with Polanski or even support his work. It infuriates me more that the general attitude of the industry is Whoopi Goldberg’s asinine assessment of Polanski’s crime was that it was “rape, but not rape-rape”… whatever that means. Her comments are no different that Rep. Todd Akin’s moronic “legitimate rape” comments.

    Watching an industry vilify a Hollywood legend like Charlton Heston in the final years of his life for simply having a different opinion on gun control (and ignoring Heston’s support of the Civil Rights movement long before his peers) yet celebrate Polanski disgusts me.

    With that said, comparing him with Woody Allen is unfair. Allen has been accused of terrible things, but was not charged or convicted with any crimes. Polanski, on the other hand, was found guilty and has fled justice for decades.

  3. Well, ansver is, WHY NOT!?
    Because they are controversial, it make them worst artists?
    I don’t think so.
    Ansver is, because they are good.
    If some “moralist” don’t like them, just don’t watch on them, and problem is solved.

    1. @MQ – A “moralist”? Are you serious? He’s a child rapist. Period. No discussion. Perhaps those who worship his ‘art’ should seek some mental help. He belongs behind bars, not on any red carpets being worshiped as a poor, misunderstood artist. He’s a coward, and those who follow him are just as twisted…..

      God bless us all.

        1. I can’t tell if you are being sarcastic or not. The fact is, Polanski is an unrepentant child rapist. He gave a 12 year old qualludes and then sodomized her. He should have gone to prison for 20 years. If you really think that is ‘judgmental tripe’ then you are a soulless piece of garbage.

  4. It’s about honoring the persons contribution to cinema and their art. It’s not a popularity contest. Not sure why that’s such a strange concept.

    1. That means that “art” trumps “criminality”. Would you feel this way if it was your daughter he raped?

    2. It’s also a tacit absolvement of what he did. In this case, drugging and sodomizing a 13-year old girl before fleeing the country just prior to sentencing.

      People like to try to divorce the artist from the art, but it’s a prevarication. We don’t do it as readily with athletes (OJ, Aaron Hernandez) or politicians (Nixon, etc) as we do with artists.

      I, personally, think it’s obscene that Gary Glitter gets checks from the NFL and NHL every year. A lot of people are still outraged that Polanski abused a child and continues to portray himself as a victim.

      You may not agree and that’s fine. But it’s more than disingenuous to say that honoring the art is not a pardoning of the person behind it. From an ethical standpoint it’s factually incorrect.

      1. “But it’s more than disingenuous to say that honoring the art is not a pardoning of the person behind it.”

        He doesn’t need to be pardoned for anything when it comes to his artistic persona, which is being awarded and is the case in point.

        You’re making all this ethical philosophising up as you go. Please don’t try to force rules you made up upon people who know better.

        1. It’s not an “artistic persona” – it’s a human being named Roman Polanski who is a child rapist. I understand many people — yourself included — feel better divorcing one from the other in your own minds, but it doesn’t work that way as much as you’d like to believe it does.

          And I don’t make this up, civilized society does. But I do have a PhD in ethics and legal theory from an Ivy League institution, so troll away.

          1. I don’t think you’re entitled to know what’s in the mind of the people handing the award. You just assume they’re making a forceful connection between his artistry (which is being rewarded) and his guilt as a sexual criminal (which is not). Yet, you take your own fabrication as gospel and expects other people to peacefully agree with such nonsense.

            Whether or not he’s been punished for his crime, he’s still a major artist whose body of work doesn’t need to be comdemned because of his personal transgressions.

            Deal with it.

  5. Because he’s one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, and only stuck-up prudes would want to throw him the first stone! The girl did say she forgave him and wasn’t actually unwilling that day… Case closed!

    1. But Stephen A. Smith gets banned from ESPN for a week for making comments associated with rape? Boy is your view skewed.

      1. A 13 year old can’t give consent. Her ability to go back later and give consent doesn’t exist. All that matters is that she couldn’t consent at the time. She was too young and was on drugs. Both of those mean that she couldn’t give consent.

        As for now? How much has she been paid to say something? Polanski would have every incentive in the world to pay her to say something that would ameliorate public opinion towards him. He is safely outside the US law, so there is no recourse for the victim. It happened so long ago that she might as well make what money she can from what she suffered.

        Despite what she may have said since then, I have a feeling she would be pointing at him in court denouncing him if the US legal system could get their hands on him.

      2. She said it as an adult so I guess she was able to judge and reflect calmly on the situation by then.

    2. She is entitled to forgive him. At 13, our laws said she wasn’t entitled to allow him to sodomize her, even if she hadn’t been traquilized before hand with drugs and alcohol (which she was, which negates any consent).

      You love CHINATOWN or ROSEMARY’S BABY or whatever. I get it.

      Roman Polanski is an AMAZING filmmaker.

      He is also a child rapist.

      The two don’t go hand-in-hand in general (at least, I hope not) but they do with him. As much as I care for some of his work, I — and others — think the latter far (FAR) outweighs the former.

      What he has made cannot be divorced from what he has done and if that makes it inconvenient for the whole “art, not the artist” types to laud him with garlands, so be it.

      Most people would not go see an excellent dentist who was a known sex offender. Civil society tends to shun abhorent creatures like that.

      Seems a lot of this site feels, when popcorn is involved, all bets are off.

  6. Why do they honor trash like Polanski? Easy answer; they are all liberals who feel everyone deserves a second (or fifth) chance. Unless of course you are George Zimmerman or George W. Bush…

    1. To be fair, the sentiment in the liberal community is mixed. Even Bill Maher called Polanski out without mincing words. But some of them just don’t get it.

  7. Your question is asinine.

    Polanski has made bona-fide classics like Knife in the Water, Repulsion, Rosemary’s Baby, Chinatown, Macbeth, Bitter Moon and The Pianist.

    He’s a master filmmaker. He’s not winning awards for being the Nicest Man on Earth. It is not hard to grasp.

    And why shouldn’t Woody be honored? Because he fell for his ex-girlfriend’s step-daughter? What’s it to you?

    1. Maybe because this guy gets a pass? If he wasn’t an “auteur” he’d be in prison and people would throw stones.

  8. I, personally, think it’s obscene that Gary Glitter gets checks from the NFL and NHL every year.

    Why? How would his legal issues prevent him from earning money from past work?

    1. I think she says that the pro sports leagues shouldn’t use his songs because of what we now know about glitter. He should absolutely be paid for past work by anyone who uses said work. That’s the law.

      The problem is that no one should be using the work.

    2. Because the leagues are volunarily giving money to a child pornographer and child molester. I see a moral (oh no! Not the “M” word!!) issue with that.

  9. Gustavo – I’m afraid you’ve got your facts a little messed up in regard to Woody Allen. He didn’t “fall for his ex-girlfriend’s step-daughter’ as you so kindly made light of it…he did in fact begin an illicit and extremely inappropriate affair with his current (at the time) not ex life-partner of 12 years, co-parent of 4 children, co-creator of numerous films – adopted daughter. He was in fact a father figure to this woman he is now married to.
    Just correcting your perception of things for the record…at least come from an accurate place before you ask “what’s it to you?”
    His relationship with Soon-Yi is likened to incest.

    1. “He was in fact a father figure to this woman he is now married to.” < B.S. Nonsense!! No one but PsychoMia claims Woody was a father figure to Soon Yi. The ONLY THING Gustavo got wrong was he should have said he "fell for his girlfriend's stepdaughter" instead of ex…that's it!! Inappropriate and/or creepy?? Sure, that's fair, but it was NOT incestuous in any way, shape, or form.

      And it's LAUGHABLE to claim PsychoMia was a "co-creator of numerous films". He put her in a lot of movies, she sucked in most of them, the word you're looking for is "co-star."

      1. OK..first off it was not her step daughter. It was her DAUGHTER. The HALF-SISTER of Woody Allen’s own children with Mia. And I am wondering how her finding that disturbing makes her Psycho…or furthermore how you not finding that disturbing doesn’t make you one?

        1. Birdieboo, we did not post that comment, I am looking into how anyone else was able to. In reality, I don’t give a rat’s ass about what Woody Allen screws this week. I suggest you all should do the same and get a life. And, brother, ‘Birdieboo’? C’mon…

  10. Europeans lionize him because they get to flaunt their anti-American credentials in public and prove to each other how ‘superior’ their films (all masterpieces of individual artistic expression) are compared to those (nothing but moneymaking commercial dreck) coming from Hollywood.

  11. Brilliant artist, tortured soul obviously, but should have confronted the legal facts of his abhorrent behavior, including fleeing the country, from abroad a long time ago. He should do so now otherwise this will overshadow his work and haunt him forever of course in addition to it being absolutely morally and ethically repugnant. Ironically the times have changed since then and not in his favor. (No one would make “Last Summer” or “Summer of ’42” [an enormous hit] today; maybe even “Manhattan”.) He should deal with it. Otherwise he looks like a psycho-sexual Raskolnikov and maybe he is exactly that. Then maybe write his autobiography. I completely respect and understand actors that would never work with him. I understand why those who have and do although I can’t imagine they make the decision lightly.

    But he does seem like he feels entitled to a lifelong pass from the entertainment community. For an artist with such acute observational acuity he seems to have zero self-awareness. In fact it comes off as flaunting this superciliously. All opinion of course.

    He’s run enough from his past I would think. Does he have enablers? Would they concede this point? That at this point it’s hurting not helping him?

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