Roman Polanski has finally overcome all of his harshest detractors, surviving a decades-long attempt to punish him for the forced sodomizing of a 13-year-old girl by at last picking up the Zurich Film Festival’s Lifetime Achievement Award, which means he wins. “What can I say? Better late than never,” a laughing Polanski said during his acceptance speech, which followed a 10-minute standing ovation that instantly validated all of the years he spent dodging prosecution by fleeing the United States and narrowly avoiding extradition. “It’s a very moving moment for me,” he added as he held up his trophy, its very weight conveying the tactile, tangible proof of his triumph.
With the grace afforded by victory, Polanski addressed the unfortunate, bothersome matter of the arrest that had previously sullied his chance to be honored, saying, “It was not only a blow to me, but also to my family and the festival itself.” Yet before a dark cloud could descend over his moment in the sun, as festival attendees dwelled on this brief misfortune they’d suffered in 2009, Polanski magnanimously thanked “the prison staff who tried to make my stay as bearable as possible, including the head of the prison of Zurich”—a sincere moment of gratitude that was greeted by “loud laughter,” prompting Polanski to respond, “This is not a joke,” insisting he was “too touched by the situation” that had so thoroughly redeemed him.
Polanski further demonstrated that redemption in the festival’s surprise screening of Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir, the Laurent Bouzereau-directed documentary in which the director—despite having an award from the Zurich Film Festival—generously extends a now totally unnecessary apology to Samantha Reimer, whom he had drugged and raped some 34 years ago in hot tub waters that are now under the Zurich Film Festival Lifetime Achievement Award bridge. “She is a double victim,” Polanski said. “My victim and a victim of the press.” Unfortunately, the press will carry that burden with them forever, as it is unlikely they will ever receive a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Zurich Film Festival.