Roman Polanski's new film An Officer and a Spy, a portrayal of the notorious Dreyfus Affair in 19th-century France, premiered at the Venice Film Festival on Friday to renewed controversy over the director, given his conviction for a sex crime.
Polanski has sought to compare his own situation with that of Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish artillery officer in the French army who in 1894 was convicted of treason and shipped to the Devil's Island penal colony off South America's Atlantic coast.
Dreyfus' conviction was criticized as being motivated by anti-Semitism and the case deeply split France. He was eventually exonerated.
Polanski, who fled the United States after pleading guilty in 1977 to having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl in Los Angeles, said in production notes he was "familiar with many of the workings of the apparatus of persecution shown in the film, and that has clearly inspired me."
The French-Polish director did not attend the Venice festival, where the French-language film is one of 21 in competition for the Golden Lion prize. It was presented by cast members, including Polanski's wife Emmanuelle Seigner, and producers.