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Wednesday, July 23, 2008
Hirsen Misleads About Polanski Film
Topic: Newsmax

A July 21 Newsmax article by James Hirsen claims that a new documentary about director Roman Polanski and the circumstances surrounding his conviction for having sex with a 13-year-old girl "attempts to minimize his crime as well as demonize Judge Laurence J. Rittenband, who presided over the case, and has since passed away and is unable to answer charges put forth in the film."

In fact, movie critics generally don't believe the former is true at all. For instance:

  • "The movie never denies or excuses the facts of the case. Zenovich includes lengthy excerpts from depositions, describing how Polanski gave champagne and Quaaludes to a 13-year-old girl before having sex with her." -- Noel Murray, Onion AV Club 
  • "Filmmaker Marina Zenovich combines court transcripts, expertly chosen archival footage (including key scenes from Polanski’s work) and revelatory interviews with the victim, ADA and defense attorney that persuasively demonstrate Polanski was guilty as sin, yet his conviction was still a miscarriage of justice." -- Geoff Berkshire, Metromix
  • "What’s clear is that Polanski and Samantha (Gailey) Geimer did indeed engage in physical contact, forced or otherwise. ... Roman Polanski deserves his badge of dishonor, no question about it. This amazing documentary argues that others need to start sporting one as well." -- Bill Gibron, PopMatters 
  • "Mr. Polanski’s guilt isn’t in doubt, arguments about the age of consent notwithstanding." -- Manohla Dargis, New York Times 

As far as Hirsen's latter claim -- that the film "demonize[s]" the judge in the case -- that's where the minimizing is taking place. Hirsen makes no mention, let alone a defense, of what caused Judge Rittenbrand to be shown as "demonized" in the film. As Murray wrote, "the judge on the case had proven to be a showboat when TV cameras were around, and neither the defense team nor the prosecutors were sure that he'd hand down a sentence in accord with what they'd negotiated." Gibron added: "It is clear that the judge wanted nothing more than to maintain a certain reputation with the press. He felt pressure to make sure Polanksi merely didn’t 'walk'. Of course, this meant violating every code of judicial ethics that there were by manipulating lawyers into doing what he wanted and reneging on deals that were sealed behind closed courthouse doors."

Without telling the whole story, Hirsen's complaint that "It’s hard to have sympathy for someone who would commit the alleged offenses and then jump bail" apepars more than a little disingenuous.

Posted by Terry K. at 9:15 AM EDT

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