Polanski tackles Dreyfus affair and his own controversies

Polanski tackles Dreyfus affair and his own controversies

PARIS - Roman Polanski is to make a film about the Dreyfus affair, the case of a Jewish army captain wrongly accused of treason in 19th century France, the veteran Franco-Polish director revealed on Thursday.

Polanski, now 80, said that he had been drawn to the subject by what he sees as parallels between the army's persecution of Alfred Dreyfus and his own treatment at the hands of the modern day media.

"There is an aspect that is extremely interesting for me, which is the insistence with which the media, like the army at the time or like any state institution, never want to admit to a mistake," Polanski told RTL radio.

"In my experience, I know that, very often, when a newspaper or a magazine makes a mistake about me or writes lies, if I react, they will always have the final word, they will never admit to getting it wrong. Just like the army at the time."

Polanski has been subject to intense media attention throughout a tumultuous career that has been marked by tragedy - his pregnant wife Sharon Tate was murdered in 1969 - and by controversy - he fled the United States after being charged with raping 13-year-old Samantha Geimer in 1977. He had admitted to illegal sex with a minor.

The case was subject to renewed attention in 2009, when Polanski was placed under house arrest by the Swiss authorities on the basis of a US request related to the outstanding charges. He was eventually released.

Polanski said his Dreyfus film, which will be at least the sixth made for cinema on the subject, was currently at the writing stage.

Dreyfus was found guilty in 1894 of passing secret information to the German military attache in Paris and sentenced to life imprisonment at the infamous Devil's Island penal colony.

In 1898 the writer Emile Zola published his famous "J'accuse" letter to the president of the day, naming officials who had framed Dreyfus. The next year the army captain was brought back for a second trial and then officially pardoned - though not cleared of the charges.

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