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19 August 2017 05:25 (South Africa)
Media

Opinion swings against “depressed” Polanski

  • Branko Brkic
    branko3048 a ray
    Branko Brkic

    Brkic is the founder and editor of The Daily Maverick.

    He has edited magazines on business and politics, technology, and wildlife. He has also published fiction and non-fiction books, most of them in Serbian. Though he has never pretended to be a reporter, his wide knowledge of politics (especially in America), combined with his experiences in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, gives him an unusual outlook on events in South Africa.

    Despite the vowel-poor surname, he tells anyone who asks that he hails from Hyde Park, Johannesburg, having spent most of his adult life in South Africa.

    Recent columns:

  • Media
polanski bloom

In the days following Roman Polanski’s arrest by Swiss authorities in late September, outrage was expressed by the likes of Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese and the French government. But as more facts surrounding the 1977 child-sex charges come to light, sympathy for the director is running dry.

It is now 16 days since Oscar-winning director Roman Polanksi was jailed by Swiss authorities for a sex-crime committed on US soil in 1977. He is “depressed” and in an “unsettled state of mind” according to his lawyer, Herve Temime. “[He] seemed very dejected when I visited him,” Temime told the press, after emerging from the filmmaker’s prison in Zurich.

The hapless auteur lost his first chance at freedom last Tuesday, when a Swiss court rejected his application for immediate release – and then urged another court to deny him bail. It is believed, not without reason, that Polanski, 76, is a flight risk.

It is also believed that public opinion is beginning to swing against him. Top US directors Woody Allen, David Lynch and Martin Scorsese were amongst the first to add their names to a petition urging his release, a list that has since grown to over 700 – including actor Adrien Brody, who starred in Polanski’s Oscar-winning The Pianist, actress Penelope Cruz, and directors Michael Mann, Wim Wenders, Pedro Almodovar, Darren Aronofsky and Terry Gilliam.

But Polanski himself realises that this level of support may not work in his favour. “The filmmaker is very touched by the support he has received,” Temime told newswire AFP after visiting his client on Friday. “He also knows that some of it is counter-productive.”

While Temime did not elaborate on the statement, the consequences of flying the Polanski flag are becoming clear enough. When French culture minister Frederic Mitterand did it a few weeks back, he drew the spotlight uncomfortably onto his own personal life – and in particular onto his 2005 autobiographical novel – which subsequently led to him appearing on French national television to deny having ever engaged in paedophile acts.

At the time of the arrest, many news outlets, including The Daily Maverick, expressed a measure of sympathy for the director, citing the fact that the victim, Samantha Geimer, had long since forgiven him – and that given his age and stature, he could hardly be considered a repeat offender. As new facts have come to light, however, much of the media has desisted from offering further opinion on the case, sticking instead to straight reportage.

Chief amongst these facts are the circumstances of the event itself. In 1977, Polanski was charged with drugging the 13-year-old Geimer, then known by her maiden name Samantha Gailey, plying her with alcohol, and raping her. He later pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of engaging in unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor.

An added factor in the about-turn of public opinion is speculation as to how Polanski’s high-profile arrest on September 26 is affecting the older Geimer. The married mother of three, now 45, lives on the Hawaiian island of Kauai, where she works as a bookkeeper for a real estate agent. Returning home after a visit to the US mainland, where she first heard the news, Geimer appeared tired and upset, refusing to answer the media’s questions.

Her son Jesse, 20, told reporters: “She's sick of it. She was at a family reunion when all this blew up again.”

Since Polanski’s arrest, excerpts of the original testimony given by Geimer have appeared all over the ‘net. It makes for grim reading, and it’s no wonder she just wants the matter behind her. Clearly, when actress Whoopi Goldberg defended Polanski two weeks ago with the words “it wasn’t rape-rape” she hadn’t read these excerpts.

The Daily Maverick has, though. We regret the original article; we’ve changed our minds.

By Kevin Bloom

  • Branko Brkic
    branko3048 a ray
    Branko Brkic

    Brkic is the founder and editor of The Daily Maverick.

    He has edited magazines on business and politics, technology, and wildlife. He has also published fiction and non-fiction books, most of them in Serbian. Though he has never pretended to be a reporter, his wide knowledge of politics (especially in America), combined with his experiences in a disintegrating Yugoslavia, gives him an unusual outlook on events in South Africa.

    Despite the vowel-poor surname, he tells anyone who asks that he hails from Hyde Park, Johannesburg, having spent most of his adult life in South Africa.

    Recent columns:

  • Media

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