Leading filmmakers hit out after festival grants Johnny Depp lifetime achievement award

Johnny Depp outside court
A judge ruled last year that allegations of domestic violence against the actor were 'substantially correct'. Credit: PA

The decision by a Spanish film festival to award Johnny Depp a lifetime achievement award sends out a "terrible message", a leading group of filmmakers has said.

Cristina Andreu, the President of Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media, said she was “very surprised” by the decision following a damning High Court ruling last year that the Hollywood actor assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard and left her to “fear for her life”.

The San Sebastian film festival announced on Monday that it would award the 58-year-old its Donostia Award - its top accolade which honours lifetime achievement - at its 69th edition in September.

A judge ruled that Johnny Depp assaulted ex-wife Amber Heard and left her in 'fear for her life'. Credit: PA

The leading group of filmmakers said doing so gave the international event a bad name.

“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’,” Ms Andreu said.

The association, which has close links to the festival, was “studying" its "next steps,” she added.

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The San Sebastian International Film Festival, held in northern Spain, will take place between September 17 and 25, with Mr Depp expected to receive the award in person on the 22nd. It will be his third appearance at the event.

Mr Depp's publicist has not released a statement on the award or in response to the comments from Spain’s Association of Female Filmmakers and Audiovisual Media.

An emailed request for comment from Mr Depp’s publicist in Los Angeles went unanswered outside office hours.

Following a three-week trial in July last year, Mr Justice Nicol dismissed Mr Depp's libel claim against the publisher of The Sun, finding that an April 2018 column calling him a “wife beater” was “substantially true”.

The judge ruled the actor assaulted Ms Heard on a dozen occasions and put her in “fear for her life” three times.

ITV News Correspondent Juliet Bremner sat through the July 2020 hearing and gave her thoughts once all the evidence had been presented

In March 2021, the Court of Appeal refused Mr Depp permission to appeal the ruling that he assaulted his former wife, saying his attempt to overturn the decision had “no real prospect of success.”

Mr Depp is also suing Ms Heard for $50 million (£36 million) in Virginia over a Washington Post op-ed essay that she wrote about domestic violence.

The trial in that case was recently delayed until April 2022.