Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Facts Matter

Facts are simple and facts are straight
Facts are lazy and facts are late
Facts all come with points of view
Facts don't do what I want them to

-- Talking Heads, 1980
Here's the thing. I love film people. In general, they're very smart. Maybe, though, sometimes, when it's so easy to get the attention of the media, they are a little impatient with inconvenient facts. So I feel very bad about the report that people I think are great filmmakers -- Wim Wenders, Wong Kar Wai, Wes Anderson, Tom Tykwer among others -- have (according to news reports) signed a petition demanding the "immediate release of Roman Polanski."

To start the discussion, here are two sources:

Over 100 In Film Community Sign Polanski Petition
'Wong Kar Wai, Harmony Korine, Stephen Frears, Alexander Payne, Michael Mann, Wim Wenders, Tilda Swinton, Julian Schnabel, and Pedro Almodovar are among the 100 and counting film industry figures who have signed the petition, coordinated from France by the SACD, an organization which represents performance and visual artists.'

Top directors rally around Polanski
'Posters were stuck on the cinema where Polanski had been due to receive his award, declaring "Free Polanski" and "No extradition". The director pleaded guilty three decades ago to having sex with a 13-year-old girl. His lawyer said Monday he had refused to be extradited from Switzerland to the United States. The 76-year-old fled the US in 1978 before sentencing on a charge in the underage sex case. He has never returned, even missing the Oscar award for "The Pianist" in 2003. France's Society of Film Directors also voiced concern the arrest "could have disastrous consequences for freedom of expression across the world".'
I firmly believe these directors are on the wrong side of this.

Go and read the victim's testimony, starting on page 26 and count how many times the 13 YEAR OLD GIRL said "NO" and "STOP" and indicated she did not want to stay or for Polanski to continue. I'm not a lawyer or a judge, but I believe that's rape.

The Swiss Directors Association petition refers to this "a case of morals" and, in fact, the case was plead to "a felony count of unlawful sexual intercourse" -- but read that transcript and be clear this is not a case where a rock band's groupie turned out to be 17 and 1/2 to everyone's surprise. It's a case where there seems to be coercion, force, and the knowledge that the victim is 13. Remember that in a plea bargain, the procedure generally moves toward agreement on a lesser charge -- in this case, it seems, to avoid forcing a 13-year-old rape victim to testify.

As another source explains:

Reminder: Roman Polanski raped a child
"Before we discuss how awesome his movies are or what the now-deceased judge did wrong at his trial, let's take a moment to recall that according to the victim's grand jury testimony, Roman Polanski instructed her to get into a jacuzzi naked, refused to take her home when she begged to go, began kissing her even though she said no and asked him to stop; performed cunnilingus on her as she said no and asked him to stop; put his penis in her vagina as she said no and asked him to stop; asked if he could penetrate her anally, to which she replied, "No," then went ahead and did it anyway, until he had an orgasm.


The point is that drugging and raping a child, then leaving the country before you can be sentenced for it, is behavior our society should not -- and at least in theory, does not -- tolerate, no matter how famous, wealthy or well-connected you are, no matter how old you were when you finally got caught, no matter what your victim says about it now, no matter how mature she looked at 13, no matter how pushy her mother was, and no matter how many really swell movies you've made."
I think the petition-signers have one point: an arrest like this at a film festival is shameful. If that's where the petition stopped, I might understand. But the arrest is fugitive Polanski's shame -- if you choose to run from the law, you bring this upon the festival. This is not a case of political amnesty from repressive dictatorship. If, as so many of these directors seem to think, Polanski can show judicial misconduct -- then do so.

Of course, then one will need the facts to back that up.

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