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Jeff Labrecque
May 09, 2012 AT 07:42 PM EDT

Roman Polanski announced his next film would be a period espionage thriller based on the Dreyfus Affair, a turn-of-the-20th-century miscarriage of justice soaked in the era’s anti-Semitism. Captain Alfred Dreyfus was the first Jewish officer to be appointed to the French army’s general staff. Brilliant but unpopular with his peers, he was accused of high treason in 1894 when a German spy made off with French military secrets. Dreyfus was scapegoated and sentenced to life in prison, fueling populist anti-Semitic sentiments across the country. The facts would ultimately reveal that he had nothing to do with the betrayal, and his exile became a cause célèbre for those who demanded justice.

“I have long wanted to make a film about the Dreyfus Affair, treating it not as a costume drama but as a spy story,” said Polanski, who is calling his film D, in a statement. “In this way one can show its absolute relevance to what is happening in today’s world — the age-old spectacle of the witch-hunt of a minority group, security paranoia, secret military tribunals, out-of-control intelligence agencies, governmental cover-ups, and a rabid press.”

Polanski will direct a screenplay written by Robert Harris (The Ghost Writer), and production is scheduled to begin in Paris by the end of this year. Casting has yet to begin.

Dreyfus’ ordeal was most famously chronicled onscreen in 1958’s I Accuse!, in which José Ferrer played the heroic Capt. Dreyfus.

Read more:

‘Chinatown’ on Blu-ray review

‘Ghost Writer’ DVD: Interview with Roman Polanski

Switzerland will not extradite Roman Polanski

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