Does arresting Roman Polanski mean that he is not a great filmmaker? Does it mean we don’t feel for his traumatic childhood in which he survived the Holocaust? Can is possibly mean we don’t feel for the loss of his late wife at the evil hands of the Manson family?
No, it only means he never paid the price for raping a minor.
However, it feels like half of the film industry has come out against the recent arrest of Polanski by signing a petition. Even major figures who never inject themselves into public debate, like Martin Scorsese and David Lynch, have came out on behalf of Polanski. All of this support leaves out one important thing. Polanski committed rape and admitted it.
The petition reads as follows:
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.
Those signing the petition feel his arrest violates the tradition and nature of controversial filmmakers being allowed to present at international film festivals. We need to remember that Polanski isn’t being arrested for showing an offensive film. He is being arrested for rape. This is beyond “a case of morals,” as they put it.
Polanski has a history of being with young (and underage) women. He has admitted it on several occasions, which leads us to believe his dark history may go beyond this one 1977 incident. Red Eye guest and founder of Big Hollywood, Andrew Breitbart, weighs in:
“What will these people say if somebody comes out of the woodwork and says they weren’t the only victim? Will they come out and say they are sorry they signed this thing?”
My guess is no. But Hollywood’s petition does not address the reason why Polanski was arrested in the first place. Nor does it matter what atrocities Polanski overcame in his lifetime. Nothing trumps the sexual violation of a minor.