Polanski’s Dreyfus movie wins Grand Jury Prize at Venice

The Dreyfus Affair is one of the most famous examples of antisemitism and miscarriages of justice in modern history and many questioned the propriety of Polanski comparing his own case to it.

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September 7, 2019 22:20
1 minute read.
Film director Roman Polanski, Madeleine Church for 'popular tribute' to late French singer and actor

Film director Roman Polanski, Madeleine Church for 'popular tribute' to late French singer and actor Johnny Hallyday in Paris, 2017. . (photo credit: CHARLES PLATIAU / REUTERS)

Roman Polanski’s movie about the Dreyfus Affair, An Officer and a Spy, won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice International Film Festival on Saturday night, in spite of controversy over whether a film by a confessed statutory rapist should have been included at all.

An Officer and a Spy also won the FIPRESCI Prize, the award of the International Federation of Film Critics, which was announced earlier.

These wins would seem to be a vindication of sorts for Polanski, whom many felt, in this era of the #MeToo movement, should not be taking part in a major film festival. Polanski pleaded guilty to unlawful sexual intercourse with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles in 1977, but then fled the US and has never been back since, even when he won the Best Director Oscar for The Pianist in 2003

Lucrecia Martel, an Argentine director who was head of the jury,  was quoted at the beginning of the festival as saying, “I will not congratulate [Polanski]” if his film were to win. She added, “But I think it is right that his movie is here at this festival.” She also said that, while she would watch the film, she would not attend the gala celebration for it, out of respect for rape victims.

In an interview that the organizers of the festival distributed, Polanski drew parallels between his own case and the persecution of Alfred Dreyfus (played by Louis Garrel), a French Jewish army officer falsely accused of treason in 1894. "I can see the same determination to deny the facts and condemn me for things I have not done. Most of the people who harass me do not know me and know nothing about the case.”

The Dreyfus Affair is one of the most famous examples of antisemitism and miscarriages of justice in modern history and many questioned the propriety of Polanski comparing his own case to it.

Variety’s film critic Owen Gleiberman, called Polanski’s comparison of the two cases “obscene.”

The movie also stars Jean Dujardin and Polanski’s wife, Emmanuelle Seigner.

The Golden Lion, the festival’s top prize, went to Joker, Todd Phillips’ film about the early life of Batman’s nemesis, starring Joaquin Phoenix.


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