Roman Polanski, the Polish-French film director behind Hollywood classics such as The Pianist, Chinatown and Rosemary's Baby, has pulled out of a scheduled appearance at a film festival in Switzerland. The 80-year-old director was set to appear at the Locarno Film Festival to collect a lifetime achievement award, but the furore surrounding his attendance caused the director to withdraw.
Polanski is still wanted by US police on statutory rape charges – he left America in 1978 after pleading guilty to charges of unlawful intercourse with a 13-year-old girl. When Locarno organisers announced the award, it triggered a fierce backlash from local media and politicians who believe that he should be sent back to the US. According to SwissInfo, one member of Switzerland's Christian Democrat Party described Polanski as a "paedophile who drugged and raped a girl and is now being received with full honours".
In a statement released by Locarno Film Festival, Polanski said: "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 addition to receiving his award, Polanski had also been scheduled to host an exclusive screening of his new film Venus In Fur and direct a filmmaking masterclass for budding directors and producers enrolled at the Locarno Academy.
"I’m sad because I think festival goers are losing a big opportunity to have him here," festival organiser Carlo Chatrian told the Hollywood Reporter. "Of course, when you use words like paedophile, you cannot say anything against that. But Polanski’s not a paedophile."
Polanski remains safe from extradition to the US as long as he remains in Poland, France or Switzerland.
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