Roman Polanski’s “J’accuse” will compete at this year’s Venice Film Festival, which begins Wednesday, organizers announced.
Polanski, the Polish-born filmmaker who won the Oscar for best director in 2003 for “The Pianist,” has been a fugitive from the United States since 1978, after he fled the country while awaiting sentencing for the statutory rape of an underage girl.
Last year, he was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, not long after it changed its rules to say there was “no place in the academy for people who abuse their status, power or influence in a manner that violates recognized standards of decency.”
But there is still a place for Polanski at Venice, where he has a long history. Along with the one in Cannes, this festival is considered among the most prestigious in the world.
“J’accuse” is about one of history’s most famous miscarriages of justice: the Dreyfus affair, in which Albert Dreyfus, a Jewish French military officer, was wrongly convicted of treason in the 1890s. The film takes its title from an open letter by Émile Zola, the novelist, that accused France’s government of mishandling the case and of anti-Semitism.
“J’accuse” will compete for the Golden Lion, the festival’s top prize, against 20 other films. Those include “The Laundromat,” Steven Soderbergh’s comedy based on the Panama Papers scandal, which showed that some of the world’s most powerful people may have used offshore bank accounts to hide their wealth.
“The Laundromat” stars Meryl Streep, whose character uncovers a scandal involving a law firm in Panama City run by men played by Gary Oldman and Antonio Banderas.
Other films in competition include “Ad Astra,” starring Brad Pitt as an astronaut who travels into space in search of his father, played by Tommy Lee Jones; and Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story,” about a husband and wife dealing with the demise of their relationship, which stars Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson.
The festival will open with “The Truth,” by Japanese director Hirokazu Kore-eda. His film “Shoplifters,” about a group of petty thieves who rescue a girl from abusive parents, won the Palme d’Or, the top award at the Cannes Film Festival, in 2018.
“The Truth” is in French and English and features Catherine Deneuve as an actress who has a complex relationship with her daughter, played by Juliette Binoche.
Venice has recently been criticized for its lack of films by female directors. Last year, Jennifer Kent’s “The Nightingale” was the only film in competition directed by a woman. This year there are two: Shannon Murphy’s “Babyteeth,” a comedy about a seriously ill teenager who falls in love with a drug dealer, and “The Perfect Candidate,” by Haifaa al-Mansour, the pioneering Saudi Arabian director, about a female doctor who runs for office.
The Venice Film Festival runs through Sept. 7.