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ZURICH, Switzerland — Director Roman Polanski publicly apologized to Samantha Greimer, the woman he sexually assaulted 33 years ago, in a new documentary that had its world premiere Tuesday at the Zurich Film Festival.
“She is a double victim: my victim and a victim of the press,” the Oscar-winning director says near the end of Laurent Bouzereau’s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir.
But those hoping this new documentary would provide further evidence for or against Polanski in the case that led him to flee America back in 1978 will be disappointed. The film, shot while Polanski was under house arrest in Switzerland two years ago awaiting possible extradition, offers little new information not already in the public record.
It is also unlikely to sway anyone on the fence in the Polanski case. The film — one long, wide-ranging conversation between Polanski and his old friend and colleague, producer Andrew Braunsberg — makes no claim to objectivity. It repeats charges of legal manipulation and corruption in the original 1978 trial that were first brought up in Marina Zenovich’s 2008 doc Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, which first reignited interest in the case. But it does not bring any new evidence or revelations to the table. Instead, what Bouzereau’s film offers is Polanski’s version of the story of his life.
If there are any surprises to be had in Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, they may be for people expecting a monster to see instead a human being, thoughtful, eloquent and emotional as he reflects on what, by any accounts, has been an extraordinary life.
Polanski chose to use the 2011 Zurich Film Festival as the platform for the world premiere of the documentary, picking the date almost two years to the day when he was arrested here en route to a ceremony to receive a lifetime achievement award.
He finally picked up the Zurich lifetime honor Tuesday and received a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd, which included Laurence Fishburne, this year’s head of the Zurich Jury.
“Better late than never,” Polanski quipped. The 78-year-old director then thanked everyone who supported him during his incarceration and eight-month house arrest before a Swiss judge ruled not to extradite. In particular, he thanked the members of the Zurich prison staff for making his stay two years ago bearable. “I’m not kidding, far from it,” he added, after the line got a laugh from the audience.
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