The premiere for Woody Allen‘s film Coup de Chance was interrupted by protesters, who urged the Venice Film Festival to “turn the spotlight off on rapists”.
As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, a group of around 20 people began demonstrating at the event on Monday (September 4) just as Allen stepped onto the red carpet. As they lined up just beyond the carpet, the group took off their shirts and chanted slogans like “no rape culture” and “no spotlight for rapist directors”.
As documented by film journalist Luke Hearfield on X, the protesters handed out fliers headlined “turn the spotlight off on rapists”. The note cites directors Woody Allen, Luc Besson and Roman Polanski, who have all been accused of sexual abuse.
The demonstration came to an end after “only a few minutes”, before they were escorted from the festival area by police.
— Variety (@Variety) September 4, 2023
Protesters have rallied together at #Venezia80 to “turn the spotlight off rapists”.
This protest just took place during the premiere of Woody Allen’s new film Coup de Chance. pic.twitter.com/cpG94nzrK6
— Luke Hearfield @ Venice 🎥🍹🇮🇹 (@LukeHearfield) September 4, 2023
Besson, who has always maintained his innocence, was originally accused of rape in 2018. The case was subsequently dropped by prosecutors over lack of evidence. In June 2023, he was later cleared of the rape accusations after the case was reopened.
Polanski previously pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor in a case stemming back to 1977, in exchange for prosecutors dropping drug, rape and sodomy charges. He was sent to jail for a 90-day psychiatric evaluation, but was released after 42 days. He’s since been living as a fugitive in France, after a US judge ordered him to return to jail.
Allen recently maintained his innocence against sexual abuse allegations from his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow, deeming that there was “no merit” to the charges. The director has always denied the charges and has never been charged with a crime in this case.
Speaking to THR, one of the protesters named Martha explained they decided to protest the decision of the film festival to invite directors who have been accused of sexual assault.
“We are talking about powerful and influential white men, which the justice system tends to treat with indulgence. What we really want is to send a message that inviting these men to the festival sends a message that normalises and emphasises rape culture and makes victims invisible.”
The director of the Venice Film Festival, Alberto Barbera, recently defended the decision to feature directors like Allen, Polanski and Besson on this year’s line up.
Speaking to Variety, Barbera said: “I am on the side of those who say you have to distinguish between the responsibilities of the individual and that of the artist… 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.”