GENEVA (AP) - Roman Polanski returned to the Zurich Film Festival on Tuesday to accept the lifetime 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 on charges of having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. He spent months in prison and later house arrest, but successfully avoided extradition to the United States after the Swiss government declined to deport him.
Now able to travel unhindered to Switzerland, Polanski, 78, arrived at the festival hall on Tuesday to a standing ovation. He stood basking in the applause before taking his seat at a tribute ceremony.
Polanski then strode to the stage amid nearly a minute's sustained clapping.
"What I can say. Better late than never," he said, as the audience brook into laughter. "It's a very moving moment for me."
During the evening Polanski presented a documentary _ "Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir" _ detailing his side of the story.
The film began with shots of the Swiss prison Polanski was incarcerated at, as well as photos of his chalet in Gstaad in the Swiss Alps.
The documentary uses footage of World War II and the Nazi invasion of Poland interspersed with film from "The Pianist," while Polanski recounts a wide variety of memories _ such as seeing a woman shot in the back by a Nazi, being reunited with his father, running from a Nazi soldier shooting at him, and seeing the Warsaw wall being built.
Polanski talks about his mother's death, the pain of his father remarrying another woman, and their visit to him in Gstaad where his father cried upon hearing music that reminded him of children being loaded into train barracks to be exterminated.
"It was an Apocalyptic, surrealistic vision," Polanski recalled of the moment.
Polanski said he watched films so he could read subtitles: "I started really learning to read in the cinema," he said.
Over 45,000 visitors are expected to attend the seventh installment of the festival in Switzerland's biggest city that includes ten world premieres and runs through Oct. 2.