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Polanski takes Golden Palm

May 27, 2002

French-Polish film director Roman Polanski has won the coveted Palme d'Or award at the Cannes film festival on Sunday.

Polanski, left, took the top prize from actress Sharon Stone, rightImage: AP

Roman Polanski has won the Cannes film festival’s coveted Palme d’Or award for his film The Pianist, the story of a man’s survival in a Warsaw ghetto.

"I am honoured and moved to receive this prestigious prize for a film which represents Poland", Polanski said. The film is said to be very personal. Polanski, 68, himself a Jew, survived the Krakow ghetto but lost his mother in a Nazi concentration camp.

It is the first time that Polanski, director of classics such as Chinatown, Repulsion and Rosemary’s Baby has received the Palme d’Or.

Finnland’s Kati Outinen won the award for her performance as a Salvation Army officer in The Man Without a Past. Belgium’s Olivier Gourmet took the award for best actor in Le Fils (The Son).

Pomp and politics

Despite the usual glitz and glamour, this year’s film festival was one with a difference.

A large number of films focused on current politics. Two films up for the Golden Palm drew attention to the growing violence between Israelis and Palestinians.

In addition, the whole festival was thrown into the political spotlight just a few days before the opening when the American Jewish Congress (AJC) called for its members to boycott the event. Calling for people in the entertainment business to think carefully about going to Cannes, the AJC appealed to them to raise the issue of anti-Semitism whenever they could.

AJC president Jack Rosen insisted that his organization was not calling for a general boycott of France, but rather wanted to increase awareness for what he saw as growing anti-Semitism in the country, referring to the attacks on Jewish institutions in previous months following tensions in the Middle East as well May’s rise of one-time presidential contender Jean-Marie Le Pen.

The matter led to public dispute, as leading figures in the French Jewish community spoke out against the AJC’s call for a boycott, saying the French government had publicly condemmed any anti-semitic violence.

Touching film

Jury Filmfestival Cannes 2002
Image: AP

Polanksi’s winning film touched on current religious tensions and anti-semitism, and clearly won the hearts of the Cannes jury (photo), which included stars from the world of film, such as actress Sharon Stone and directors David Lynch and Raoul Ruiz.