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Polanski film to premiere in Berlin despite house arrest

Berlin – The new movie by Roman Polanski, currently under house arrest in Switzerland, will get its world premiere and be in competition at the Berlin film festival in February, organisers said Tuesday.

The Oscar-winning director of Chinatown — and of the new The Ghost Writer — is confined to a Swiss chalet after being detained in September when he arrived in Switzerland to collect an award at the Zurich film festival.

US prosecutors have been hunting the Franco-Polish Polanski, 76, ever since 1978 when he fled the country before he could be sentenced after admitting having unlawful sex with a 13-year-old girl.

The director, who has French nationality, is fighting his extradition to the United States, after being granted bail of USD 4.5 million (EUR 3.1 million, CHF 4.7 million) on condition that he surrender his passport and wear an electronic cuff.

Swiss authorities have warned Polanski, who spent several weeks in jail, that he will forfeit his bail if he leaves his Alpine chalet, and Interpol has placed neighbouring countries on alert in case he tries to flee.

He has reportedly been furiously editing The Ghost Writer in jail and then in his Gstaad chalet in order to have it ready in time for its maiden public screening during the Berlin festival’s 60th edition from February 11-21.

It is based on the novel The Ghost by British writer Robert Harris and sees Ewan McGregor employed to pen the autobiography of a former British prime minister modelled on Tony Blair who then uncovers dark secrets.

Alongside The Ghost Writer, which also features Pierce Brosnan, Shutter Island by Martin Scorsese starring Leonardo DiCaprio will also receive its world premiere in Berlin, albeit out of competition, organisers said.

Others vying for the coveted Golden Bear award include Na Putu (On the Path) by Bosnian director Jasmila Zbanic, whose harrowing rape drama Grbavica took the honours in 2006, and Bal (Honey) by Turkey’s Semih Kaplanoglu.

Also screening out of competition will be My Name is Khan starring Bollywood heartthrob Shah Rukh Khan, directed by Karan Johar.

But Polanksi is unlikely to be on the red carpet.

Last week his lawyers urged a California appeals court to dismiss his conviction, citing alleged misconduct by the trial judge, who died in 1993, in the case more than 30 years old.

But the prosecution argued that he has to appear in court himself to argue to have the case dropped.

The victim, Samantha Geimer, has also urged the case be dismissed, saying the renewed attention was causing her anguish.

"Thirty-two years is enough," said Geimer’s lawyer, Lawrence Silver, adding she had been harmed by "unfair" and "improper" judicial proceedings.

AFP / Expatica