(AFP) – Sep 28, 2009
PARIS — Top film directors across the world rallied around Roman Polanksi on Monday, declaring themselves "astonished" at the arrest of the film-maker over a 1977 underage sex case.
Michael Mann, Wim Wenders and Pedro Almodovar were among more than 70 film industry figures who signed a petition in protest at the detention of the Polish-French director on Saturday in Zurich.
"We demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski," urged the petition, which was coordinated from France by the SACD, an organisation which represents performance and visual artists.
"Film-makers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision," the petition said, adding the arrest came as "astonishing news" to the SACD.
"It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary film-makers, is used by police to apprehend him."
Names were piling up on the petition late Monday, and included directors Julian Schnabel, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, Walter Salles and actress Tilda Swinton.
Polanski, who directed "Rosemary's Baby", "Chinatown" and "The Pianist", was detained as he arrived to receive a lifetime achievement award at the Zurich film festival.
The five members of the film festival jury said Monday that the event "had been exploited in an unfair fashion".
Posters were stuck on the cinema where Polanski had been due to receive his award, declaring "Free Polanski" and "No extradition".
The director pleaded guilty three decades ago to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. His lawyer said Monday he had refused to be extradited from Switzerland to the United States.
The 76-year-old fled the US in 1978 before sentencing on a charge in the underage sex case. He has never returned, even missing the Oscar award for "The Pianist" in 2003.
France's Society of Film Directors also voiced concern the arrest "could have disastrous consequences for freedom of expression across the world".
Polish film-makers called on their government to act and prevent a "judicial lynching".
Some 100 Swiss artists and intellectuals signed a petition demanding the release of Polanski, while papers in the country lamented that a "trap" had been laid there for the director.
The film industry's outrage was echoed by the international community with France and Poland criticising the arrest.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was working with his Polish counterpart Radek Sikorski to help Polanski and that they had jointly written to US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to ask for the charges to be dropped.
"This affair is frankly a bit sinister. Here is a man of such talent, recognized worldwide, recognised especially in the country where he was arrested. This is not nice at all," Kouchner told France-Inter radio.
French Culture Minister Frederic Mitterrand has called the arrest of the film-maker, who lives in Paris, "absolutely horrifying".
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