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What Am I Missing?

September 30, 2009
by

So Roman Polanski gave a 13 year old girl drugs and alcohol, raped her, admitted to it, and ran to France where he wouldn’t be extradited. 30+ years later, he gets a lifetime achievement award in Switzerland. When he shows up, they arrest him. That much is fact.

What I do not understand is this petition demanding Polanski’s release. Signed by Woody Allen, Pedro Almodovar, Ethan Coen, Martin Scorsese, and 100 other celebrities, the petition essentially states that Switzerland is neutral, film festivals are nice, and therefore Polanski shouldn’t have been arrested at a Swiss film festival. Seriously.

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.

What the hell does a film festival have to do with it? The guy raped a teenage girl. His mistaken assumption that he would be able to continue avoiding justice in Switzerland really shouldn’t come into the equation. It’s laughable as an excuse.

Imagine if you committed rape in your home, and the police obtained and executed a warrant. You could insist that you should not be arrested in your home, but no one would give a shit. Why? Because you raped someone. Not only is the “film festival defense” laughably irrelevant, the signatories should be ashamed to “demand the immediate release” of an admitted rapist.

There may be all kinds of defenses for Polanski to present, but he should be forced to present them to a court, rather than living out the remainder of his days leading a princely life in flagrant defiance of the law.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Liza permalink
    September 30, 2009 5:10 pm

    Here, here! You’re not missing anything except the lack of being a self-important filmmaker. I think they’re all just worried they’re going to get busted the next time they come to the Oscars.

  2. Jonathan permalink
    September 30, 2009 8:48 pm

    I think that in genral society gives artists a bit more lattitude to artists in terms of acting pervy. Was Edgar Allen Poe arrested for marrying his 13 year old cousin? Was Lewis Carol arrested for his relations with the real life Alice? Was Woody Allen arrested for having relations with his step-daughter? When Pete Townshend was busted during a wide ranging internet child porn sweep, the cops just let him go. Why? because he is an artist.

    It is naive to say that everybody should be treated by society the same way. It never has happened in human history, and it never will. Social equality is a fabrication of the academic mind. However, individuals within the same class should be treated more or less the same by society. How else are they to know what behavior will be acceptable? Polanski raped a thirteen year old girl because he assumed that as a member of the artist class, he could. He had no idea that within the artist class, there is a double standard only applied to himself.

    Just kidding!

  3. Jonathan permalink
    October 8, 2009 4:33 am

    This says is better than I could:

    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/the_big_picture/2009/10/is-hollywood-really-a-hotbed-of-support-for-roman-polanski.html

    And, as someone who lives in Hollywood, I can say it pretty much reflects the reality on the ground.

  4. Barry permalink*
    October 8, 2009 8:42 am

    Interesting article, Jonathan. Thanks for the link. I agree that a city or an industry should not be tarred with the brush best reserved for only a few of its members (if you look at what I wrote, I criticize the signatories without drawing sweeping conclusions.)

    One thing that the writers hint at, but never address directly is the nebulous metonym “Hollywood.” To them, Hollywood is a geographic area and the film companies contained therein. To others, the word seems to mean “anything that has to do with movies or showbiz.” It’s a sloppy way to use the word, especially when it is used to imply that everyone in the business thinks the same way.

    • Jonathan permalink
      October 8, 2009 5:03 pm

      That question of what exactly the term Hollywood refers to is an interesting one. I literally live in the neighborhood in Los Angeles that has been designated Hollywood since 1910, if memory serves me correct. There are many film studios in Hollywood and the greater Hollywood area, such as Paramount and Fox. But Sony is in Culver City, Warner Brothers is in Burbank, Universal is in Universal City, and Disney is in Anaheim. So geography doesn’t cut it as a description.

      Most people here define Hollywood vaguely as a culture existing in Southern California revolving around movie-making full of elites i.e. studio heads, major producers, and A-list actors, “below-the-line-workers” such as oh say electricians, truck drivers, etc, power-brokers in the guise of agents and managers, actors, celebrities, writers, directors, designers such as costume or set designers, and people like me who are looking in with out noses pressed up against the “glass wall.”

      Josh Olson, who wrote the more entertaining article, received an Oscar nomination for his screenplay A History of Violence. He has been very outspoken on Hollywood issues since he was nominated, presenting himself as a voice of Hollywood, to the point where many people accuse him of arrogance, especially since he has written nothing else of note before or since AHoV. But he is definitely a part of the Hollywood community.

      It is definitely true that few people talk about Polanski here. I was covering a horror film festival in Hollywood (the neighborhood) this weekend for the paper I write for. I spent all weekend talking with writers, directors, and producers about horror movies, and Polanski never came up, not once. I talked with people about a few classics, such as The Haunting, and Friday the Thirteenth, but not Rosemary’s Baby. But why should I? You go to a Hollywood event in order to network and meet people. Child rape is not a conducive topic of discussion if you want to forge relationships, and Hollywood is all about relationships. The NYT wrote that fear is keeping people from talking about Polanski, but it is more a complex system of mores and taboos that more or less exist everywhere in the US.

      A lot of the media is taking this as an opportunity to Hollywood bash. I know there was none of that in your article. Sorry if I made it sound that way.

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