J’Accuse – Roman Polanski at the CCB

Marjan David Vajda - Introductory address


Dear guests and friends, good evening.

My name is Marijan David Vajda, I am a film director and I am representing here the Jewish Cultural Centre.

Polanski said:

“Even as a child, I always loved cinema and was thrilled when my parents would take me before the war. Than we were put into the ghetto in Krakow and there was no cinema, but the Germans often showed newsreels to the people outside the ghetto, on a screen in the market place. And there was one particular corner where you could see the screen through the barbed wire. I remember watching with fascination, although all they were showing was the German Army and German tanks, with occasional anti-Jewish slogans inserted on cards.”

Roman Polanski was born in Paris on 18 august 1933; the son of Bula and Ryszard Polanski who changed his family name from Liebling. His Polish-Jewish parents moved the family back to Krakow/ Poland in 1936.On 1 September 1939, German forces invaded Poland, and the World War 2 began. His father was transferred, along with thousands of other Jews to Mathausen, his mother was taken to Auschwitz, and was killed soon after arriving. The forced exodus took place immediately after the German liquidation of the Krakow ghetto, a true-life backdrop to Polanski`s film THE PIANIST. Polanski who was then hiding from the Germans, remembered seeing his father being marched off with a long line of people. Polanski tried getting closer to his father and managed to get within a few meters. His father saw him, but afraid his son might be spotted by the German soldiers, whispered (in Polish)”Get lost” Polanski escaped the Krakow Ghetto in 1943 and survived with the help of some Polish Roman Catholics in a polish village. His new name was “Roman Wilk” and he attended church, learned to recite Catholic prayers by heart and behaved as a Roman Catholic. Polanski said: 

“They were really simple Catholic peasents.The Polish village was like the English village in TESS, very primitive, no electricity. The kids with whom I lived didn’t know about electricity… they wouldn’t believe me when I told them it was enough to turn on a switch”.

The war ended in 1945, three million Polish Jews were killed which accounted for 90% of the countries Jewish population. Polanski remained in hiding in the Polish countryside until 1945.After the war, he was reunited with his father and moved back to Krakow. He would use the memory of his mother, her dress and makeup style, as a physical model for Faye Dunaway`s character in his film CHINATOWN. After the war, he watched films, either at school or at a local cinema, using whatever pocket money he had.

Polanski said:
“I loved the luminous rectangle of the screen, the sight of the bean slicing through the darkness from the project booth, themiraculous synchronization of sound and vision, even the dusty smell of the tip-up seats.” 

Polanski attended the National Film School in Lodz. In the 1950s, he took up acting, appearing in Andrzej Wajda`s A Generation (1954).Short films made during his study at Lodz gained him considerable recognition, particularly TWO MEN AND A WARDROBE and WHEN ANGELS FALL. His first feature-length film KNIFE IN THE WATER was a success in the West, the film also earned its director his first Academy Award nomination (Best Foreign Language Film) in 1963.
Barbara Leaming writes in her book Polanski his films and his life:

“Polanski is a child of his times and, in his films, he has mirrored the savagery and violence which he has experienced at first hand. He remembers the shock waves of the Holocaust and the grey hardship of the Stalinist era. He has lived through the cataclysmic upheavals of the post –war years, the revolution in styles and roles, and he has used his dreams and secret images to chart the patterns of destruction. And, few people would deny, he has in the process produced a series of dazzling, brilliant, often deeply disturbing films”.

Here some of the famous ones:
Knife in the Water,Repulsion,Cul- de –sac, Rosemary’s Baby,Macbeth,Chinatown,The Tenant,Tess,Frantic,The Pianist, OliverTwist, The Ghost Writer, Carnage.

His films won all the possible awards one can imagine: Oscars, Cesar’s, Golden Globe Awards, Festivals (Berlin, Cannes, Karlovy Vary, Zurich, Venice and so on). We are very proud tonight to present you for the first time in Serbia, his latest film “J`ACCUSE (An Officer and a Spy) about the Dreyfus affair, with a screenplay by Polanski and Robert Harris based on Harris novel by the same name (the novel is available in Serbian). It had its premiere at the 76th Venice International Film Festival on the 30 August 2019, winning the Grand Jury Prize.

In 1989 Polanski married French actress Emmanuelle Seigner (she stars in Jàccuse and in other Polanski’s films), they have two children, daughter Morgane and son Elvis.

Thank you, enjou the film and I wish you a Happy Hanukah.