The ghost of 1977 still haunts Roman Polanski. The legendary director -- who made movies like Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, Tess and, more recently, The Pianist and Carnage -- was to have attended the ongoing Locarno Film Festival to present his latest, Venus in Fur, and conduct a master-class, but could not do so. There were protests in the Swiss city against Polanski's visit, because of the 1977 rape charge against him.
Polanski, who was to have also received a special award at Locarno, issued a statement: "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."
The festival was also disappointed, even angry, and regretted the unacceptable interference from those vocally critical of Polanski's attendance. The festival director, Carlo Chatrian, said that this was the "darkest" day of his tenure. "I am sad because the audience of the Piazza Grande won't be able to salute a master of cinema. I am sad because the idea of the festival as a meeting and debating place today receives a big blow".
Polanski was arrested for raping a 13-year-old girl in the US after a photo shoot. He pleaded guilty, but ran away to London to avoid jail. He then settled in France, but was placed under house arrest in 2009 at a Swiss town. However, despite America's insistence, Switzerland refused to extradite him, and freed him after some months.
One media report said that the criticism against Polanski's visit was "motivated by local political points-scoring". Seems that Locarno is like India, where literary and cinema events often attract such protests and cancellations.