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Roman Polanski, 'D': Controversial Director Takes On Dreyfus Case, Draws Comparisons

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Roman Polanski's next film,
Roman Polanski's next film, "D," will focus on the Dreyfus Affair.

Roman Polanski is certainly not hiding from the public eye, despite attempts by the California government to have him extradited in relation to an unlawful sexual intercourse conviction (the director was accused of drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl in 1977). In fact, the director has announced that his next project, "D," will focus on a man who knew a thing or two about persecution: Alfred Dreyfus.

It's a particularly unsubtle move, as supporters of the director have drawn comparisons between Polanski and the artillery officer sentenced to treason on false charges in the late 1800's. Dreyfus was falsely accused of treason and sentenced to life in prison in 1894 before eventually having his name cleared by the writer Emile Zola.

In a statement (via The New York Times), Polanski said the movie was about "the age-old spectacle of the witch hunt of a minority group, security paranoia, secret military tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, governmental cover-ups and a rabid press."

Dreyfus was a Jewish soldier who was punished despite the government's awareness of the real culprit, Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy. Of course, the parallels to Polanski's case are a bit thin -- there is no "other culprit" in the case, and Polanski's alleged crime was not betraying a nation but sexually assaulting a teenage model. Also, Polanski pled guilty.

The director has a strong contingent of supporters and defenders, both in the film community and in European culture at large. Bernard Henri-Levi, a French public intellectual, has written passionately in defense of Polanski (including in blogs for this site), going so far as to call filmmakers who don't demand Polanski's acquittal "mediocre and craven 'citizens.'"

In 2011, Polanski returned to Zurich (where he had previously been living under house arrest) to receive a lifetime achievement award that the festival had attempted to give him two years prior.

Since winning the Oscar for Best Directing for 2002's "The Pianist," Polanski has continued to make a film approximately every two years. His most notable film in recent years is "The Ghost Writer," starring Ewan McGregor and Pierce Brosnan. He also directed last year's "Carnage."

"D" will begin filming later this year in Paris and is expected to be distributed in all major markets.

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CORRECTION: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to the gentleman at the heart of the Dreyfus Affair as Richard Dreyfus. The Dreyfus involved is Alfred Dreyfus, and the error has been corrected above. Richard Dreyfus is an American actor. The article also incorrectly described California's government as seeking Polanski's extradition to face rape charges. Polanski was already convicted of unlawful sexual intercourse, and the government is seeking his extradition over an unserved sentence. The error has also been corrected above.

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