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The Weak Case For Roman Polanski

roman-polanski-1977--121636799050739400Roman Polanski raped a minor and he should be punished.  Case closed, right?  Apparently it’s not that easy.  Thanks to an astounding number of people speaking out in his behalf.  This has lead many of us to question what is going on that we may not be seeing.

It looks like half of the film industry has come out in his defense.  Filmmakers like Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, who never get involved in public debate, have come out to defend Polanski.  Upon reading the weak case for Polanski, you will still be left wondering why they support this man.

Most film industry types are voicing their support via the petition (read in full bottom of page).  Its major argument is that Polanski’s recent arrest violates the tradition and nature of controversial filmmakers being allowed to present at international film festivals. They strategically forgot to mention that the arrest was for raping a minor and fleeing the country.

The petition also pushes Polanski as a “a renown and international artist.”  What does that have to do with anything?  Sure, he has made great films but that still doesn’t trump his admitted rape of a 13 year old girl.  Too many people are having a hard time differentiating the art from the artist.  It is certainly acceptable to like his films but also ask that he pays for his crime.

The most disgusting part of this petition calls the 1978 arrest nothing more than “a case of morals.”  Are they so ignorant that they cannot see the immorality in rape?  Not only is rape a crime against another person, it is also a crime against the state worthy of strict punishment.

In addition, there is also an email going around asking all of the global film community to sign the petition (read at bottom).  It does address the original rape case by asserting that the documentary, Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired, proves why we should give him a pass.  The film does highlight much of Polanski’s life, giving us many reasons to feel for him.  None of which justify rape, however.

The email falls into the trap of asserting Polanski “suffered enough” and has “served his time.”  We all know that he has lived a life of extreme highs and lows.  This doesn’t mean he can get away with sexual assault.  The documentary told us he served a 90 day evaluation period where they determine if he has a mental disorder.  This was separate from any sentencing for the actual crime.

It also turns out that the documentary wasn’t entirely truthful.  Many believe the case wasn’t handled properly, and this is reason enough to drop it altogether.  David Wells, former prosecutor who was at the center of the misconduct allegations, said he lied to the documentarians:

“I lied. I know I shouldn’t have done it, but I did. The director of the documentary told me it would never air in the States. I thought it made a better story if I said I’d told the judge what to do.”

This shouldn’t surprise anyone.  HBO, who aired the documentary, has a history of showing extremely slanted and bogus documentaries (example, Right America: Feeling Wronged).  After all, most documentaries are purely propaganda anyway (see Michael Moore).  There is no reason why this film should be the basis for any argument.  Leave it up to Hollywood to use a film as their source of truth.

Below you will be able to read both the petition and the email in their entirety.  Both of them either completely miss the point of Polanski’s arrest or have horrible evidence to support their view.  For those still wondering how anyone could be supporting this man, here is your reasoning.  Of course, it’s miles short of anything intelligent.  It’s what we have come to expect from the Hollywood types these days.

Read official petition below:

“We have learned the astonishing news of Roman Polanski’s arrest by the Swiss police on September 26th, upon arrival in Zurich (Switzerland) while on his way to a film festival where he was due to receive an award for his career in filmmaking.

His arrest follows an American arrest warrant dating from 1978 against the filmmaker, in a case of morals.

Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him.

By their extraterritorial nature, film festivals the world over have always permitted works to be shown and for filmmakers to present them freely and safely, even when certain States opposed this.

The arrest of Roman Polanski in a neutral country, where he assumed he could travel without hindrance, undermines this tradition: it opens the way for actions of which no-one can know the effects.

Roman Polanski is a French citizen, a renown and international artist now facing extradition. This extradition, if it takes place, will be heavy in consequences and will take away his freedom.

Filmmakers, actors, producers and technicians – everyone involved in international filmmaking – want him to know that he has their support and friendship.

On September 16th, 2009, Mr. Charles Rivkin, the US Ambassador to France, received French artists and intellectuals at the embassy. He presented to them the new Minister Counselor for Public Affairs at the embassy, Ms Judith Baroody. In perfect French she lauded the Franco-American friendship and recommended the development of cultural relations between our two countries.

If only in the name of this friendship between our two countries, we demand the immediate release of Roman Polanski.”

The following email was used to gather support for Polanski:

“Dear Friend,

Thierry Fremaux told me the shocking news of Roman’s arrest in Zurich, which by now the whole world is attuned to. We are all incredibly distressed and disappointed by this turn of events, particularly as Roman was en route to receive an award, for his career in film, in a country where he often visited and even had a home.

In Marina Zenovich’s documentary “ROMAN POLANSKI: WANTED AND DESIRED”, it clearly showed that a plea bargain was made with the judge; the District Attorney and Polanski’s lawyers too acknowledged that a deal had been made. Roman however got a tip that the judge had recanted his decision and planned to double cross him, causing him to leave the US to which he has not since returned.

While he is not above the law, Polanski received his punishment and served his time, and the deal is not being honored. The idea of Roman Polanski incarcerated is an anathema and a situation that we, who have the privilege of making movies, cannot tolerate. We must lobby against any move to bring him back to the US where he could face jail time. Unfortunately, some believe that a man, considered by many to have suffered enough, has in fact not and has another uphill fight ahead of him.

I urge you to add your voice to this fight. Thierry and the French artistic community are beginning an extraordinary battle to bring justice to this situation, including reaching to the highest corridors and President Sarkozy. We as Americans, and as part of the global film community, must be prepared to stand together and lobby against the governing bodies of this case.

If you would like your name added to this petition, please email [private address].

I also support you forwarding this email to others in our community to enlist their help and support.”

Chris Yogerst

Chris is an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Colleges and is a PhD film student at Regent University. He is also editor and a film critic for Parcbench. His articles are linked on numerous sites around the web. Follow him at twitter.com/chrisyogerst

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About Chris Yogerst

Chris is an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Colleges and is a PhD film student at Regent University. He is also editor and a film critic for Parcbench. His articles are linked on numerous sites around the web. Follow him at twitter.com/chrisyogerst
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