Fest honors Freeman, Keaton, 'Wolfy'

BERLIN – The Zurich Film Festival wrapped on Sunday with a slew of awards for international pics but the event will be most remembered for the arrest of Roman Polanski.

The Paris-based helmer was taken into custody upon his arrival in Zurich Airport on Sept. 25, the second day of the fest, at the request of the L.A. County district attorney’s office in connection with his escape from the U.S. in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a minor.

Zurich fest organizers said they were “taken aback” by the actions of Swiss authorities, adding “Polanski was in Zurich to be celebrated as guest of honor for his cinematic work, which has received undisputed recognition worldwide among experts.”

Organizers added that the fest “sticks to its recognition of Mr. Polanski’s cultural achievements.”

Fest director Karl Spoerri said, “The 5th Zurich Film Festival certainly has been the most exciting to date. Yes, the Polanski arrest happened and was an unfortunate incident, but there were too many great films, filmmakers, stars and attendees to let this incident be a crippling distraction.”

Spoerri said he was “encouraged by the support of the global industry” and added that the “presence and participation of special guests such as Morgan Freeman, Michael Keaton, Peter Fonda and Debra Winger helped create an electric atmosphere.”

Freeman received the fest’s Golden Icon Award while Keaton was feted with the first Career Achievement Award.

Vasilij Sigarev’s Russian drama “Wolfy,” about the dysfunctional relationship between a mother and daughter, won Zurich’s feature film award, while Carsten Ludwig and Jan-Christoph Glaser’s “66/67 — Fairplay is Over,” about soccer yobs, picked up the best German-language film prize.

Celebrating its world premiere in Zurich, German-Swiss co-production “The Sound After the Storm,” by Patrik Soergel, Ryan Fenson-Hood and Sven O. Hill, won international documentary kudos for its look at jazz artists’ efforts to help New Orleans and its residents recover from the continuing impact of hurricanes Gustav and Katrina.

German features “13 Semesters,” by Frieder Wittich, and Maximilian Erlenwein’s “Gravity” as well as Yoav Shamir’s Israeli doc “Defamation” received special mentions.

Other winners included Cherien Dabis’ “Amreeka,” which nabbed Variety’s New Talent Award, and Martin Pieter Zandvliet’s Danish production “Applause,” which took the Swiss Assn. of Film Journalists’ Award.

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