Exclusive: Revelations From Roman Polanski's Polish Secret Service File

Newly released Communist-era files show a complicated relationship between the Polish regime and the Wunderkind French-Polish filmmaker, from his first success to his escape from Hollywood after having sex with a minor.

Roman Polanski
Roman Polanski
Filip Ganczak

"Dear Raymond," begins a letter written to Roman Polanski by his sister Annette on January 10, 1957. Polanski was 23-years-old at the time, a French-born Polish citizen, and was studying film in Lodz, Poland; his sister was in Paris. The letter never reached him. Rather, it was opened by the Polish secret police and placed in Polanksi's personal file. Today the letter can be found in file number BU 1368/1705 at the Polish Institute of National Remembrance in Warsaw.

Die Welt was given an exclusive look into the 111-page dossier, which documents the director's constant struggle with Polish authorities, and with his allegiance to the country itself.

Under Stalinist rule, Poland's borders were closed and foreign travel was a rare priviledge. After the death of party leader Boleslaw Beirut in March, 1956, the regime somewhat softened its public stance. In April, 1956, Polanksi requested for the first time the right to leave Poland and visit his sister in France. "I was born in Paris. I came to Poland in 1938. Since then, I have not seen my sister. Eighteen years have passed," he wrote to the Ministry of Interior.

He waited a long time for his travel permit to arrive, and it was not until February 10, 1957 that he was allowed to go. After several other short visits by himself, Polanski went to France in December 1959 with his wife, the young actress Barbara Kwiatkowska.

In Paris, they were both invited to the filming of Robert Menegoz's The Thousandth Window. But in Poland, Menegoz's work was considered "progressive," which made Polanski's involvement with the film "favorable for propaganda," according to the Deputy Minister of Culture, Tadeusz Zaorski.

Polanski remained in France longer than he had anticipated. In 1961, he received a consular pass, and was allowed to travel the world without any restriction. The same year, he returned to Poland to begin work on his first feature-length film, Knife in the Water.

The film depicts a world that many people in Poland must have had a hard time even imagining at the time. The protagonist is a successful sports journalist who drives an expensive car and owns a yacht. Roman Polanski described life as seen in the West. This kind of existence was not completely absent from Poland, but it was only available to those working very close with the Communist Party – even if officially, these values were despised and frowned upon.

After the initial screening of the film, party leader Wladyslaw Gomulka was furious. He publicly attacked Polanksi, describing the film as "intellectually shallow," and claiming that it was too pessimistic and could cause confusion in the minds of the youth.

According to Professor Tadeusz Lubelski, film scholar at Jagiellonian University in Krakow, this kind of state criticism further convinced Polanski of what he already knew: he needed to make a film in the West. "In the People's Republic of Poland, he could never have made Dance of the Vampires, Rosemary's Baby, or Chinatown," Lubelski explains.

After the premiere of Knife in the Water in March, 1962, Polanski spent most of his time outside of Poland. His first few years abroad were not easy, as he struggled to find a producer. In 1963, however, Polanksi made his international breakthrough when a still image from Knife in the Water was featured on the cover of Time magazine, and the film clinched an Oscar nomination.

By the 1970s, communist Poland had a new government led by Edward Gierek, whose views were significantly more liberal than those of his predecessor. "The authorities treated Polanski with a lot of hypocrisy during this time," says Lubelski. On the one hand, the regime was reluctant to praise anything Hollywood stood for. On the other, it wanted to resume contact with the West, and sought to have good relations with the now successful director, whose films were almost all being shown in Poland.

In the mid 70s, Polanski obtained French citizenship, and the Polish government was not happy. In July, 1976, he managed to renew his passport, explaining that he would like to attend the Polish premiere of his new movie Chinatown. He also hinted that he might be willing to produce a film in Poland.

When the message reached the Polish government, however, a certain Comrade Krasko decided that Polanski should not be invited to Poland. He would be allowed to enter as a private citizen on a Polish passport, but would not be granted a visa for his French one.

In 1977, the Los Angeles police arrested Roman Polanski on charges of rape, which were plea bargained down to "sexual intercourse with a minor," after he had sex with a 13-year-old girl. Before the final sentencing, he fled to France, fearing he was going to face a long jail sentence. A year later, the secret police in Warsaw, which was still closely following his every move, made the filmmaker persona non grata in the Polish People's Republic. He was listed as a French citizen.

The national hero returns home

In 1980, Polanski was removed from the blacklist and was allowed to visit his father in Krakow. During his visit, he made a number of television and radio appearances in which he spoke very highly of Poland.

By that time, things were beginning to change in the People's Republic. The Solidarity trade union was fighting for workers' rights and social change. State censorship was starting to loosen its grip, and in 1981, Polanski was even allowed to direct Peter Shaffer's Amadeus in a Warsaw theater. The production was a hit.

In December of that year, however, Solidarity was prohibited as the country entered a period of martial law. As a result, freedoms were significantly restricted, and many Polish artists responded with a boycott of state media. Polanski's short adventure as a director in Poland was already over.

By the end of the decade, change came again in Poland with the election of the first non-Communist party. The new, democratic Poland, hailed Polanski as a "great Polish director." When Warsaw was chosen for the 2002 premiere of The Pianist, the country exploded with pride. Many former communists came to the screening and agreed that it was a fantastic film.

When Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in 2009, a great wave of solidarity spread across Poland. Lech Walesa, co-founder of the Solidarity party, argued that the director should be forgiven this one sin. In 2010, when the Swiss government released Polanski from house arrest after denying extradition requests from the United States, the Polish Foreign Ministry reaced to the decision "with great satisfaction." The Republic of Poland could once again celebrate its hero.

Read the original article in German.

Photo - ficg

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How China Flipped From Tech Copycat To Tech Leader

Long perceived as a country chasing Western tech, China's business and technological innovations are now influencing the rest of the world. Still lagging on some fronts, the future is now up for grabs.

At the World Semiconductor Conference in Nanjing, China, on June 9

Emmanuel Grasland

BEIJING — China's tech tycoons have fallen out of favor: Jack Ma (Alibaba), Colin Huang (Pinduoduo), Richard Liu (Tencent) and Zhang Yiming (ByteDance) have all been pressured by Beijing to leave their jobs or step back from a public role. Their time may be coming to an end, but the legacy remains exceptional. Under their reign, China has become a veritable window to the global future of technology.

TikTok is the perfect example. Launched in 2016, the video messaging app has been downloaded over two billion times worldwide. It has passed the 100-million active user mark in the United States. Thanks to TikTok's success, ByteDance, its parent company, has reached an exceptional level of influence on the internet.

For a long time, the West viewed China's digital ecosystem as a cheap imitation of Silicon Valley. The European and American media described the giants of the Asian superpower as the "Chinese Google" or "Chinese Amazon." But the tables have turned.

No Western equivalent to WeChat

The Asian superpower has forged cutting-edge business models that do not exist elsewhere. It is impossible to find a Western equivalent to the WeChat super-app (1.2 billion users), which is used for shopping as much as for making a medical appointment or obtaining credit.

The flow of innovation is now changing direction.

The roles have actually reversed: In a recent article, Les Echos describes the California-based social network IRL, as a "WeChat of the Western world."

Grégory Boutté, digital and customer relations director at the multinational luxury group Kering, explains, "The Chinese digital ecosystem is incredibly different, and its speed of evolution is impressive. Above all, the flow of innovation is now changing direction."

This is illustrated by the recent creation of "live shopping" events in France, which are hosted by celebrities and taken from a concept already popular in China.

10,000 new startups per day

There is an explosion of this phenomenon in the digital sphere. Rachel Daydou, Partner & China General Manager of the consulting firm Fabernovel in Shanghai, says, "With Libra, Facebook is trying to create a financial entity based on social media, just as WeChat did with WeChat Pay. Facebook Shop looks suspiciously like WeChat's mini-programs. Amazon Live is inspired by Taobao Live and YouTube Shopping by Douyin, the Chinese equivalent of TikTok."

In China, it is possible to go to fully robotized restaurants or to give a panhandler some change via mobile payment. Your wallet is destined to be obsolete because your phone can read restaurant menus and pay for your meal via a QR Code.

The country uses shared mobile chargers the way Europeans use bicycles, and is already testing electric car battery swap stations to avoid 30 minutes of recharging time.

Michael David, chief omnichannel director at LVMH, says, "The Chinese ecosystem is permanently bubbling with innovation. About 10,000 start-ups are created every day in the country."

China is also the most advanced country in the electric car market. With 370 models at the end of 2020, it had an offering that was almost twice as large as Europe's, according to the International Energy Agency.

Photo of a phone's screen displaying the logo of \u200bChina's super-app WeChat

China's super-app WeChat

Omar Marques/SOPA Images/ZUMA

The whole market runs on tech

Luca de Meo, CEO of French automaker Renault, said in June that China is "ahead of Europe in many areas, whether it's electric cars, connectivity or autonomous driving. You have to be there to know what's going on."

As a market, China is also a source of technological inspiration for Western companies, a world leader in e-commerce, solar, mobile payments, digital currency and facial recognition. It has the largest 5G network, with more than one million antennas up and running, compared to 400,000 in Europe.

Self-driving cars offer an interesting point of divergence between China and the West.

Just take the number of connected devices (1.1 billion), the time spent on mobile (six hours per day) and, above all, the magnitude of data collected to deploy and improve artificial intelligence algorithms faster than in Europe or the United States.

The groundbreaking field of self-driving cars offers an interesting point of divergence between China and the West. Artificial intelligence guru Kai-Fu Lee explains that China believes that we should teach the highway to speak to the car, imagining new services and rethinking cities to avoid cars crossing pedestrians, while the West does not intend to go that far.

Still lagging in some key sectors

There are areas where China is still struggling, such as semiconductors. Despite a production increase of nearly 50% per year, the country produces less than 40% of the chips it consumes, according to official data. This dependence threatens its ambitions in artificial intelligence, telecoms and autonomous vehicles. Chinese manufacturers work with an engraving fineness of 28 nm or more, far from those of Intel, Samsung or TSMC. They are unable to produce processors for high-performance PCs.

China's aerospace industry is also lagging behind the West. There are also no Chinese players among the top 20 life science companies on the stock market and there are doubts surrounding the efficacy of Sinovac and Sinopharm's COVID-19 vaccines. As of 2019, the country files more patents per year than the U.S., but far fewer are converted into marketable products.

Beijing knows its weaknesses and is working to eliminate them. Adopted in March, the nation's 14th five-year plan calls for a 7% annual increase in R&D spending between now and 2025, compared with 12% under the previous plan. Big data aside, that is basic math anyone can understand.
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