The director of the San Sebastian Film Festival is standing by their decision to honour Johnny Depp at this year’s fest.
It was announced earlier this weekend that Depp will receive the festival’s highest honorary prize, the Donostia Award, which has previously been given to such Hollywood stars as Ethan Hawke, Judi Dench, and Penelope Cruz.
The announcement was immediately met with controversy, including from a group of Spanish women filmmakers.
“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,’” Cristina Andreu, president of Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, told the Associated Press.
The controversy stems from allegations by Depp’s ex-wife Amber Heard, who alleged that he abused her during their marriage. A resulting lawsuit in the matter led a U.K. court to deem the description of Depp as a “wife beater” in the tabloid the Sun was “substantially true.”
Depp has since been dropped from Warner Bros.’ Fantastic Beasts franchise, and director Andrew Levitas has claimed his film “Minamata” was shelved by MGM due to Depp’s starring role.
In a lengthy statement to the press, San Sebastian director José Luis Rebordinos responded to the criticism.
“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,” he said, according to Variety. “According to the proven data which we have at 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.”
“The San Sebastian Festival has been accused of failing to display ethical behaviour in regard to violence against women,” Rebordinos continued. “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 program 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.”
Finally, he added, “But the festival’s ethical commitments cannot only refer to the problems of women in a patriarchal society, despite the terrible nature of the situation in which we live, where hundreds of women are killed every year as the result of crimes by men. The rejection of all violent behaviour and the presumption of innocence are and will always be our ethical principles.”
The San Sebastian Film Festival takes place this year from Sept. 17 to 25. Depp is expected to receive the award in person in the Spanish city on Sept. 22. The actor is also set to be honoured at the Czech Karlov Vary Film Festival later this month for his “significant contributions to film.”