The award will be presented at the opening of the festival on Friday by Oscar nominated and BAFTA winning British filmmaker Stephen Daldry. The honor is in recognition of Downey’s services to cinema.
Downey was the founder, with producing partner Samantha Taylor, of Film and Music Entertainment (F&ME) in 2000. He has more than 100 producer credits, including Agnieszka Holland’s “Charlatan” and Fatmir Koçi’s “Elvis Walks Home.”
On the humanitarian front, Downey was part of the team that launched the International Coalition for Filmmakers at Risk (ICFR) at the Venice Film Festival in 2020. The ICFR aims to activate the film community’s collective response to filmmakers who face political persecution for their work.
“In the difficult times which we are all experiencing,” said Downey, “We have two major international tsunamis of human rights abuses in both Myanmar and Afghanistan. So I would like to accept this award and dedicate it to those film makers who are still behind bars in Myanmar. The coup of February of this year has locked up hundreds of artists and we all need to work tirelessly for their release. But equally, I also want to dedicate it to all those film makers in hiding in Afghanistan. Waiting under the most difficult and dangerous conditions, to find a way out of a place that just became hell for them after 20 years of relative freedom of thought and expression.”
ICFR is also working with Index on Censorship and Good Chance Theatre, who recently wrote to the British government to give artists, writers and film-makers who remain in Afghanistan and face an uncertain future under the Taliban safe passage out of the country.
The letter was signed by more than 80 luminaries including Riz Ahmed, Siddiq Barmak, Hugh Bonneville, Barbara Broccoli, Benedict Cumberbatch, Stephen Daldry, Jane Featherstone, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry, Paul Greengrass, Afua Hirsch, Asif Kapadia, Keira Knightley, Krishnendu Majumdar, Mohsen Makhmalbaf, Ian McKellen, Sam Mendes, Sophie Okonedo, Mark Rylance, Meera Syal, Imelda Staunton, Tom Stoppard, Emma Thompson, Emma Watson and David Yates.