The director of the San Sebastian International Film Festival has defended the decision to give its highest honour to controversial actor Johnny Depp.
Executives of the Spanish festival announced on Monday that the Pirates of the Caribbean star would receive its Donostia Award on 22 September, prompting backlash online and from the President of Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, Cristina Andreu, who said the decision sends “a terrible message to the public.”
Andreu was referring to the controversy surrounding Depp, who lost a libel case against U.K. tabloid The Sun last year after the judge ruled that allegations of domestic violence against the actor were “substantially true.”
Responding to the uproar, festival director José Luis Rebordinos issued a statement to Variety saying the organisers will always defend “the presumption of innocence and that of the right to reintegration.”
“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,” he continued. “We repeat: he has not been charged by any authority in any jurisdiction, nor convicted of any form of violence against women.”
He went on to insist that the festival is committed to “fighting inequality, the abuse of power and violence against women” and has created “safe atmospheres for women”.
“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,” he concluded. “The rejection of all violent behaviour and the presumption of innocence are and will always be our ethical principles.”
Depp will also be honoured by the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival in the Czech Republic later this month.