Sunday, 18 July 2010

The Trouble With Roman.

Following his detention last September in Zurich, nine months of house arrest and decades of murky incertitude, this week Switzerland refused the US extradition of film maker Roman Polanski.
In the lead up to this week's decision came staggering support for Polanski, in the form of a high profile 'free Roman Polanski' campaign, a petition circulating this year's Cannes film festival and such unlikely celebrities as Whoopi Goldberg denouncing Polanski's arrest for sexual assault on the grounds that "it wasn't rape rape." It seems Goldberg, along with many others, have well and truly missed the point...

In 1977 Polanski was charged with drugging and sodomising the 13 year old Samantha Geimer in LA. While he only pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of having sex with a minor at the time (a charge in Californian law synonymous with statutory rape), his following behaviour belied a guilt and fear of incarceration. Polanski fled the US the following year and spent the intervening time in France where he sought, and gained, legal immunity, and then notably avoided any countries likely to extradite him. In 1979 he told Martin Amis, “Everyone wants to fuck young girls.” Later, much public legal wrangling ensued - Geimer sued Polanski in 1988 over sexual assault, of which he agreed to settle out of court. Despite the notoriety of the case, he continued to make films and companies continued to fund him.
In 2009 Polanski flew into Switzerland to accept a life time achievement award and was there detained by Swiss authorities after the US requested his extradition. French foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, described the arrest as 'sinister,' and many expressed shock and outrage at this decision.
And on what grounds? Is Polanski - for reasons pertaining to his vocation, his success, or even (most untenably) his relative youth, then - exempt from law? Is his victim to be denied her justice? Non too surprisingly, as such dismissive and self questioning attitudes are common among victims of sexual abuse, Samatha Geimer has publicly denounced Polanski's arrest and even his guilt, not at any point retracting her accusations but - as with the press, public and government ministers alike - somehow excusing it.
The most shocking aspect of Goldberg's comments, and other's, would be their casual dismissal of the incident, and the effect it would've had on this woman's life, and any other potential victim's of Polanski's for that matter. It's hard to know where to start in the disparagement of the varying arguments of defence here - but the one, solid fact of no refute is Polanski's guilt of fleeing trial. Surely, then, neither his defenders nor his critics can argue that, whether Polanski is guilty or not, he should face the trial he so arrogantly departed  - ran away from, seemingly sans repercussion. If only to prove some convoluted form of a well maintained innocence and to dispel this dark cloud of guilt threatening to over shadow his reputation and career. Perhaps then his supporters can question, if nothing else, all these instances of subterfuge and flight - and why society continues to defend a self confessed rapist.

The Guardian on why 'Polanski's 'genius' is only a defence to the morally vacuous.'


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