Entertainment & Arts

Roman Polanski returns to Zurich for lifetime award

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Media captionPolanski collects his Zurich Film Festival award - Courtesy 20 Minuten

Director Roman Polanski has received a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich Film Festival, two years after his arrest in the city on sex charges.

Polanski received a standing ovation before telling the audience: "What can I say? Better late than never."

He was on his way to receive the award in 2009 when Swiss police arrested him over a 1977 US conviction for unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

He spent months in prison and house arrest but avoided extradition.

The 78-year-old Polish-French director, whose work includes Rosemary's Baby and Tess, is now able to travel unhindered to Switzerland.

"It's a strange anniversary for me, two years, day for day," he said after receiving the award.

"Certain parts of it I'd rather forget, but I'm happy to be here. It is a very moving moment for me so do not expect any speeches."

He thanked those who had supported him during "these difficult months".

"I would in particular like to thank the prison staff who tried to make my stay as bearable as possible, including the head of the prison of Zurich," he said.

He added: "I love coming to Switzerland, I have been coming for years, and I'm happy to be here."

International warrant

In 2009, Polanski had travelled from his home in France to Zurich but was detained at the airport on an international warrant.

Image caption The director signed autographs as he arrived at Monday's event

Switzerland eventually refused the US request.

Polanski was originally charged with six offences including rape and sodomy over the 1977 case.

In 1978 he pleaded guilty to unlawful sex following a plea bargain and served 42 days in a US prison.

The film-maker fled from the US after hearing rumours that the judge was about to re-sentence him for a much longer term.

He has never returned and did not collect his best director Oscar for The Pianist at the 2003 Academy Awards.

Polanski's appearance preceded a screening of a new documentary in which he publicly apologises to Samantha Geimer, the woman he sexually assaulted 33 years ago.

"She is a double victim - my victim and a victim of the press," the director is seen saying in Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, shot while he was under house arrest in Switzerland two years ago.

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