The Academy Award-winning director of "The Pianist" has been a fugitive from the U.S. justice system since 1977 when he was convicted for sex offenses with a minor. The 80-year-old director lives in Paris.
Polanski was supposed to give a master class to the Summer Academy on Friday. Carlo Chatrian, the festival's artistic director, has been facing criticism from the press and local politicians about Polanski's involvement since the start of the festival. On Tuesday, Chatrian said he was "deeply saddened" by the news that Polanski would not be attending the festival and disturbed by the fact that some people had "crossed the line" with "unacceptable personal attacks....I am sad because those taking part in the festival have been deprived of meeting an extraordinary artist. … I am sad because the concept of the festival as a place of debate and gathering has been dealt a heavy blow." Read his full statement here.
In his letter to the festival declining attendance, Polanski wrote: "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 response, the festival described the cancellation as a "setback" saying that "the public will thereby be deprived of an important opportunity for cultural enrichment." The festival also said that it "continues to affirm its commitment to the principle of free and unfettered artistic expression."
In 2009, when Polanski attended the Zurich Film Festival in 2009 to receive a prize he was arrested.