- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

GENEVA (AP) - Roman Polanski returns to the Zurich Film Festival to accept a lifestime achievement award he was unable to pick up two years ago after being arrested for a decades-old sex-crime case.

The Polish-French director of “Rosemary’s Baby” was detained on arrival at Zurich airport in 2009 and subsequently spent months in prison and later house arrest before avoiding extradition to the United States on charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977.

Now able to travel unhindered to Switzerland, Polanski, 78, will be presented with the award at a Sept. 27 ceremony that will also feature the world premier of an unnamed documentary, the festival’s artistic director said Wednesday.

“It’s a very nice conclusion to this difficult time,” Karl Spoerri told The Associated Press ahead of Thursday’s opening night. “For us it’s a sign that he doesn’t feel any grudge against the festival. On the contrary, he’s looking forward to it and will be coming with a big surprise.”


Sean Penn is the festival’s other big name guest. The two-time Academy Award winner will receive Zurich’s Golden Icon Award on Sept. 28 followed by a screening of a retrospective in honor of the 51-year-old actor, director and producer.

“Sean Penn is one of the great actors of the last ten or twenty years, and he’s had a big impact on the new generation,” said Spoerri.

The festival in Switzerland’s biggest city started in 2005 with a budget of about $500,000. That has now grown tenfold, and over 45,000 visitors are expected to attend the seventh installment that includes ten world premieres and runs through Oct. 2.

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