Poles Rally to Polanski’s Defence

A number of high-placed Poles leapt to the defence of Roman Polanski after the arrest of the director in Switzerland on 26 September.

The film-maker, who holds dual Polish and French nationality, is considered one of the outstanding figures to have emerged from Poland’s Film School in Łódź.

Several of Polanski’s peers from the cinematic world, including Oscar-winner Andrzej Wajda and Agnieszka Holland, have appealed on behalf of the director of Chinatown and The Pianist.

In the political sphere, Defence Minister Radek Sikorski has stated that he will be making a joint appeal for clemency with French Minister Bernard Kouchner. Meanwhile, former President Francois Mitterand was swift to voice his dismay about the arrest.

Polanski was apprehended at Zurich airport, on his way to receive an award for his lifetime achievement in film. The arrest concerns a charge of unlawful sex dating from 1978, involving a then 13-year-old American girl. Polanski fled the States in 1979, before the case was ultimately settled, and the U.S. government has upheld a warrant for his arrest since then.

In recent years, the victim of the incident has spoken out on several occasions, asking for the extradition order to be invalidated.

In Poland, the case has inspired much attention. The director, who is of Jewish descent, spent his youth in Krakow, where he survived the Nazi occupation through being sheltered by Catholic families. He left Poland in 1963, following the success of his film Knife in the Water. Since 1979, he has lived in France, but he has continued to cooperate with American studios.

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