Polanski, who won a best director Oscar in 2003 for “The Pianist” was to have received a lifetime achievement honor, given a masterclass and presented his latest film “Venus In Fur.”
Convicted for sex offences in the U.S in 1977, but a fugitive from the U.S. justice system ever since, Polanski admitted that his visit to the festival could stoke “controversies.”
“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,” Polanski wrote in a letter to the festival.
The Swiss festival described his cancellation as “a setback” and said that “the public will thereby be deprived of an important opportunity for cultural enrichment.” It added that it “continues to affirm its commitment to the principle of free and unfettered artistic expression.”
Polanski, 80, who is based in France, has avoided the U.S. for decades. But his case was highlighted recently at the United Nations-backed summit meeting World Day Against Trafficking in Persons held in Beverly Hills.