Venice festival's only woman director gets sexist heckle at film screening

by Reuters
Thursday, 6 September 2018 14:14 GMT

The 75th Venice International Film Festival - Photocall for the film "The Nightingale" competing in the Venezia 75 section - Venice, Italy, September 6, 2018 - Director Jennifer Kent. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

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Festival has been accused of overlooking female filmmakers

* Only one woman among 21 directors in main competition

* "Babadook" director Jennifer Kent made "The Nightingale"

* Man admits shouting "whore" at press screening (Adds Festival withdrawing journalist's accreditation, bullet points)

By Robin Pomeroy

VENICE, Italy, Sept 6 (Reuters) - The only movie in the main competition in Venice made by a woman was heckled by an audience member who called director Jennifer Kent a "whore", reigniting concerns about sexism at the festival which has been accused of overlooking female filmmakers.

"The Nightingale", by Australian writer-director Jennifer Kent, is about a woman who seeks revenge after her family is killed and she is raped. It has its official world premiere on Thursday, but was screened to journalists a day earlier.

After social media lit up with reports of the heckle, a man called Sharif Meghdoud, who writes online movie reviews in Italian, said it was him.

"To avoid any speculation about what I might have said, I repeat it here: 'Shame on you, whore, you're disgusting!'. Something that just came out of my mouth, without thinking about what I was saying or of the consequences," Meghdoud posted on his Facebook page.

Reuters attended the press screening, where there was applause when Kent's name came up on the credits. Witnesses said that was when they heard the offensive heckle.

Kent, known for the acclaimed psychological horror "The Babadook", was asked at a news conference how such abuse should be dealt with.

"I think it's of absolute importance to react with compassion and love for ignorance - there is no other option," she said.

The Venice Film Festival, which selected only one film by a woman director for the main competition where there are 20 made by men, said on Twitter it had withdrawn the accreditation of the person responsible for the heckle.

Meghdoud said it was "an anomaly which I guarantee will never happen again".

"Above all, I apologise to all the people who were offended, to the director Jennifer Kent to whom I wish a splendid career, and to the Venice Biennale ... for the disgrace I have made at an international level," he wrote on Facebook.

He said he hoped his apology would "avoid a lynching or public crucifixion for a stupid comment that was not meant in bad faith".

Meghdoud did not immediately reply to a request from Reuters for comment.

(Reporting by Robin Pomeroy Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)

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