Berlin Film Festival names Polanski as best director

THE 60th Berlin Film Festival wrapped up yesterday after crowning Roman Polanski best director, although the filmmaker, who is under house arrest in Switzerland over a 1977 sex case, missed the premiere of his latest movie.

Polanski won the plaudit for his political thriller The Ghost Writer, while the jury awarded the festival’s top Golden Bear prize to a Turkish family drama Bal (Honey) starring a seven-year-old boy.

Polanski, 76, is fighting extradition to the US over the case in which he earlier admitted having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The Silver Bear trophy was accepted by a producer of the film, Alain Sarde on Saturday.

“I am sure Roman will be very happy,” he said.

“However, when I was lamenting with him that he cannot be with us, he said to me, ‘Even if I could, I wouldn’t because the last time I went to a festival to get a prize, I ended up in jail’,” he quipped.

Sarde was referring to the director’s arrest in September on a US warrant when he went to Zurich to accept an award. Polanski finished work on The Ghost Writer while confined to his Swiss chalet.

Berlin’s BZ am Sonntag tabloid called the decision a “scandal”, amounting to offering Polanski “general amnesty” for his crime.

“The fact the Berlinale world stage is used for this second-rate spectacle leaves a nasty aftertaste and does lasting damage to the festival,” it wrote.

Critics showered The Ghost Writer with praise, calling it a return to form for the French-Polish film-maker, best known for classics such as Rosemary’s Baby and Chinatown.

Based on Robert Harris’s bestseller The Ghost, the film features a stand-out performance by Pierce Brosnan as a former British prime minister modelled on Tony Blair being probed for war crimes over the torture of terror suspects.

He hires a ghost writer (Ewan McGregor) to shape up his memoirs but the hired scribe soon stumbles upon a lethal web of transatlantic intrigue.


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