Film director Roman Polanski will no longer be attending the Locarno Film Festival in Switzerland to receive a lifetime achievement award and screen his new movie Venus in Fur because his presence would have caused "tensions and controversies."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, local Swiss politicians and media oulets had been protesting Polanski's impending arrival. In a statement, Polanski wrote:
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.
In a sad video statement entitled "Roman Polanski Gives Up on Locarno - A Sad Day", the Festival's artistic director Carlo Chatrian said that this was "the darkest day since I have been asked to be the director of this Festival":
I have the greatest respect for freedom of expression for everyone and I have decided to listen to every criticism with the right attention.
I feel that this time some positions have crossed boundaries, and through verbal violence and manipulation of reality, they have become an unacceptable attack to personal dignity.
I understand and respect the decision of Roman Polanski. I sincerely hope that this missed opportunity for growth won't sound like a victory for those who want to bridle the Festival, but becomes a platform to relaunch it as a space for hospitality and freedom.
This is not the first time Polanski has had issues with Switzerland. In 2009, he was forced into house arrest after trying to attend the Zurich Film Festival there. In April, emails emerged that indicated that the judge the statutory rape case that prompted Polanski to leave the U.S. in the 1970s may have been unduly influenced. At the time, Polanski's lawyers told the New York Times that they planned to take legal action, indicating that Polanski could return to the country.