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Venice: Producer Considered Withdrawing Roman Polanski’s Film After Jury President’s Remarks

A producer on Roman Polanski’s “An Officer and a Spy” said he considered pulling the movie from the Venice Film Festival after jury president Lucrecia Martel declared she would “not congratulate” the director. But after Martel clarified her statement, which some had interpreted as a refusal to consider the film for an award, the film’s production team said Thursday it was satisfied on the matter.

Argentine auteur Martel made her remarks Wednesday during the festival’s opening press conference, which featured pointed questions on the inclusion of works by Polanski and U.S. director Nate Parker in the official selection, despite both men’s histories of allegations of sexual assault. Polanski was convicted of statutory rape in California and fled the U.S. in 1978 before his final sentencing.

Martel clearly defended the choice of Polanski’s film in the Lido lineup, despite the controversy surrounding Polanski himself. “I will not congratulate him,” she said. “But I think it is right that his movie is here at this festival.” She added that the festival was a proper place to conduct such discussions and debates.

After the news conference, Luca Barbareschi, an Italian producer on “An Officer and a Spy,” told Italian news agency Adnkronos that he was concerned by Martel’s comments. He said he was “considering withdrawing” the film from the competition unless Martel clarified her statements and it was clear that the film would get a fair hearing in the jury room.

Later Wednesday, the festival issued a statement in which Martel said she would watch and judge Polanski’s film “like any other in the competition.” She said that her comments had been “deeply misunderstood.”

On Thursday morning, the production team behind “An Officer and a Spy” told news agency Ansa that it was satisfied and had accepted what it called Martel’s “apology.”

Polanski is not expected to appear in Venice with his film, which is a re-telling of France’s infamous Dreyfus Affair, a real-life case of anti-Semitism in the French military that has fascinated the director for years. It stars Jean Dujardin, who won an Oscar for his performance in “The Artist.”

In press notes for the film, Polanski told an interviewer that the movie was highly personal, alluding to the rape case that has dogged him and received revived scrutiny in the #MeToo era. The U.S. Academy voted last year to expel him from its ranks.

“I sometimes find moments I have experienced myself, I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done,” Polanski said in the interview. “Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case.”

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