French sales company Wild Bunch has pulled Jan Kounen’s Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky out of the Zurich Film Festival in protest against Roman Polanski’s arrest en route to the festival last Saturday (September 26).

Wild Bunch’s Vincent Maraval told Screen that the decision to pull the film was met with consternation on the part of the Swiss who would have preferred that the parties involved come to protest on site. For Maraval, the upset is not a question of Polanski’s standing with the US courts; it is more a question of a film festival being taken advantage of in the name of international politics.

Maraval contends he would have stopped the festival entirely had he been in organisers’ shoes. “The festival was taken hostage by the authorities,” after inviting Polanski to attend, he said. “The thing that was scandalous was to continue the festival.

“In 1968 the Cannes festival stopped and that was for things that were happening in Paris, far from Cannes. We reacted with our gut. We’re disgusted and if no one does anything (the situation) will just go unnoticed.”

It is the latest show of high-profile industry support for the 76-year-old director, who is facing an increasingly uncertain length of time in Swiss custody. His lawyers filed a motion on Tuesday (September 29) requesting his release but the Swiss Federal Criminal Court responded saying a decision could take weeks.

The arrest came after Swiss authorities received a request from the US Department of Justice that Polanski be held for possible extradition. The department was acting on request from Los Angeles prosecutors, who have been seeking the director since he fled to France in 1978 after pleading guilty to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. The timing of the move, given Polanski owns a home in the country and travels extensively around Europe, has baffled many.

The industry reacted quickly and angrily to the news as many believe that Polanski has completed his punishment after serving 42 days in prison in 1978.

The recent documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired, which screened on US TV in January, also highlighted legal irregularities in the case against the director.

Earlier this year a Los Angeles Superior Court judge agreed there was “substantial misconduct” in the original hearing. An appeal is pending.

Harvey Weinstein and Cannes Film Festival director Thierry Frémaux immediately launched a petition demanding Polanski’s release. “We’re calling on every film-maker we can to help fix this terrible situation,” Weinstein said. Sources close to The Weinstein Company said the mogul would reach out to Hollywood to lobby against any move to bring Polanski to the US.

However, it comes as the tide of political support in France, where the director lives, appeared to turn against him. French president Nicolas Sarkozy has been vocal in his support of Polanski but is now facing criticism from across the political spectrum, including from Marc Laffineur, a member of his own party and vice-president of the French Assembly.

The uncertainty around Polanski’s time in prison has left questions over how he will complete his current project, The Ghost.

David Garrett, president of Summit International, which is working with Polanski on the film, said: “Roman was in the process of finishing the editing of the movie. It was due to be finished and delivered around the end of November. We hope Roman will be back in the real world very shortly.”

Kinowelt is due to release The Ghost in Germany on February 18, suggesting it was expected to take a slot at next year’s Berlinale.

Additional reporting by Jeremy Kay and Geoffrey Macnab.