The beautiful, passionate films of director Jane Campion like the Oscar-winning Piano and 2009’s Bright Star are filled with intense sexually charged relationships and encounters. But the current story line of sexual harassment and mud slinging that the director finds herself embroiled in is more like the plot of a scandalous novel. It all took place at the India International Women Film Festival in Deli last December. Festival organizer Shyamali Banerjee asked Jane Campion to premiere Bright Star at the event. The director agreed, undoubtedly believing that this event would be a fantastic venue for her latest film. These feelings of goodwill and admiration, however, would not last long. 

The Times of India reported earlier this week that Campion had filed a complaint against Banerjee’s husband Bhaskar Deb for sexual harassment. British tabloids picked up the story as well, and by midweek Campion found herself forced to make a statement of her own. The director claims that while she personally wasn’t sexually harassed by Bhaskar Deb, she has knowledge of three delegates who indeed did have bad experiences with him and are filing official complaints. Her statement goes on to state a litany of grievances with the festival and its organizers including the last minute cancellation of her film premiere, non-reimbursement for travel arrangements and other broken promises.

More lurid details of the sexual harassment incidents have surfaced in various press outlets accusing Deb of drunkenly propositioning the women while offering them alcohol. The Indian authorities are currently conducting an investigation into the charges of sexual harassment. Meanwhile, Deb has denied the claims to the Indian Press and has repeatedly called Campion a racist.

Sordid details and name calling aside, sexual harassment should be taken seriously. Whether you are an Oscar winner or a teacher, sexual harassment is an embarrassing drama that few want to admit and fewer want to publicly discuss. So big names like Jane Campion could potentially help bring the issue back into the public’s consciousness and make it something we recognize as unacceptable and not just fodder for tabloids.