Women Directors Condemn Johnny Depp Tribute Awards at Festivals: ‘Sends Terrible Message’

The Karlovy Vary and San Sebastian festivals are raising eyebrows for awarding Johnny Depp this year.
Johnny Depp
Johnny Depp
AP Photo/Alvaro Barrientos, File

Update, August 13: San Sebastian’s festival director José Luis Rebordinos has issued another defense of honoring Johnny Depp at this year’s festival: “In the first place, as the director of and person holding the highest responsibility for the Festival, I would like to repeat our commitment to fighting inequality, the abuse of power and violence against women. As well as meeting the commitments acquired in the Charter for Parity and the Inclusion of Women in Cinema, the Festival has consciously promoted the presence of female professionals at the head of its departments. By means of its September programme and throughout the year it participates in the questioning of society from a critical and feminist point of view. We have also endeavoured to create safe atmospheres for women in the Festival places of work and sites and, in the event of inappropriate behaviour, which has occurred, we have taken tough and rapid action.”

“In these present times, when lynching on social media is rife, we will always defend two basic principles which form part of our culture and of our body of laws: that of the presumption of innocence and that of the right to reintegration,” continued the festival director. “According to the proven data which we have to hand, Johnny Depp has not been arrested, charged nor convicted of any form of assault or violence against any woman. We repeat: he has not been charged by any authority in any jurisdiction, nor convicted of any form of violence against women.”

Earlier, August 12: Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media is speaking out against this week’s news that Johnny Depp will be awarded the Donostia prize at the 69th San Sebastian Film Festival next month. The festival announced Depp will be given the event’s lifetime achievement prize Wednesday, Sept. 22, referring to the actor as “one of contemporary cinema’s most talented and versatile actors.”

Cristina Andreu, the president of Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, told the Associated Press (via The Guardian) that the group of women directors was “very surprised” over the decision to give Depp the Donostia prize. Depp has been accused of emotional and physical abuse by Amber Heard. Warner Bros. had Depp exit the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise last year after he lost a libel case to The Sun, which referred to Depp as a “wife beater” in an article about Depp and Heard.

“This speaks very badly of the festival and its leadership, and transmits a terrible message to the public: ‘It doesn’t matter if you are an abuser as long as you are a good actor,'” Andreu told the Associated Press. She also added that the association of women directors, which has close ties to the San Sebastian Film Festival, was “studying next steps.”

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter, San Sebastian’s festival director José Luis Rebordinos explained his decision to honor Depp despite the controversy. “The role of a film festival is not to judge the conduct of members of the film industry. The role of a film festival is to select the most relevant and interesting films of the year and to extend recognition to those who have made an extraordinary contribution to the art of film,” he said. “The Donostia Award to Johnny Depp is our recognition of a great actor, a man of cinema with a great career, who visited us last year as producer of the film ‘Crock of Gold: A Few Rounds With Shane Macgowan’ by Julien Temple, which won the Special Jury Prize.”

But the San Sebastian Film Festival is not the only fall event honoring Depp this year. The Karlovy Vary International Film Festival also announced this week it would be honoring Depp at its 2021 event. Karlovy Vary said it is honoring Depp and “will recognize and pay tribute to the acclaimed actor’s extensive career and lasting legacy on the film industry globally.”

“We’re incredibly honored to welcome to the Festival an icon of the contemporary cinema,” Karlovy Vary’s executive director Krystof Mucha and the festival’s artistic director Karel Och said in a statement. “We’ve admired Mr. Depp for such a long time and are thrilled to bestow this honor on him.”

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