Roman Polanski Wins Grand Jury Prize at Venice Film Festival

The director, who fled the United States to escape a statutory rape conviction, took home the runner-up prize in Venice

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski took home the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival for his film "An Officer and a Spy." (LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images)
By Bonnie Stiernberg / September 8, 2019 11:28 am

Todd Phillips took home the coveted Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for his comic book villain origin story, Joker, but it’s the runner-up Grand Jury Prize that has proven more controversial this year: as Variety reports, Roman Polanski — who is still a fugitive after pleading guilty to the statutory rape of a 13-year-old girl in 1978 — took home the honor for his film An Officer and a Spy.

The film is a dramatization of the Dreyfus affair, in which French army officer Alfred Dreyfus was wrongfully convicted of treason in 1894. Polanski has drawn criticism for drawing parallels between the Dreyfus case and his own. As Variety‘s Owen Gleiberman wrote in his review of the film, “In general, I tend to be a die-hard believer in separating the man from the art. But Roman Polanski has made it all but impossible to do so with An Officer and a Spy.”

Polanski was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last year in the wake of the #MeToo movement. He was not present at the Venice Film Festival to accept the Grand Jury Prize in person, but his wife Emmanuelle Seigner accepted the award on his behalf.

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