In 2009, Polanski arrived in Zurich to pick up the same film award, but police arrested him on a U.S. warrant.
Authorities in the U.S. wanted to extradite him back to Los Angeles to be sentenced for having sex with a 13-year-old girl in 1977. However, he successfully avoided extradition to the United States after the Swiss government declined to deport him.
Upon accepting his award in Zurich, the 78-year-old Polish-French director of "Rosemary's Baby" told the audience, "Better late than never."
Though Polanski joked about the ordeal, he acknowledged the pain of it but said little else, allowing the world premier of a full-length documentary - "Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir" - to largely speak for him.
The memoir, by Laurent Bouzereau, was kept secret by Zurich's film organizers. The film recounts his Polish roots and includes footage of World War II and the Nazi invasion of Poland interspersed with scenes from "The Pianist."
He also thanked his supporters as well as prison staff "for trying to make my stay there as bearable as possible."
Polanski still faces an Interpol warrant in effect for 188 countries for extradition to the United States. He moves freely between Switzerland, which refused to extradite him, and France, which has a blanket policy of not extraditing its citizens.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.