Few could have predicted the after effects of Marina Zenovich’s “Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired.” Analyzing the circuitous legal route of Roman Polanski’s trial and subsequent departure from the United States, the picture actually featured evidence allowing lawyers to re-open the case. Giving momentum to the legal proceedings, the case’s reawakening began a chain of events that led to Swiss authorities nabbing the filmmaker as he touched down for the Zurich Film Festival, beginning a new battle in the courts.
This led to Zenovich making a followup with “Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out,” which probed the dominoes that fell from the release of ‘Wanted And Desired’ to Polanski being placed behind bars. Even with the film recently screening for press in advance of the New York Film Festival, she clearly has her reservations about her role in the saga. When lawyers told her in December of 2008 that they would be using her film for evidence, she had already washed her hands of the affair. “I was pretty much ready to move on after five years, but I couldn’t stop myself from continuing to film,” she says, noting that her earliest notions were only to make a short. “I started filming January 2009, but I couldn’t help myself in following how my film had helped reopen the case.”
Though Polanski hasn’t seen ‘Odd Man Out,’ she can only imagine he isn’t pleased with how Zenovich’s work has complicated his life, and she registered some regret over how she’s become a part of the story. “Our relationship is complicated,” she says, reminding, “They tried to use the film to reopen the case, and it led to his arrest, so it’s a mixed bag.” It wasn’t any easier to gain access to those closest to Polanski either. “A lot of people wouldn’t talk to me, so I had to draw my own conclusions,” she says. Both films found her struggling to get the sort of interviews necessary to properly illuminate the material. “The most difficult people in the first film were the lawyers,” she sighs. “I had a cut of the film without them because they wouldn’t even talk to me.”
Zenovich claims the crux of the story, involving international power politics, fascinated her. “He’s being used as a pawn in an international game,” she says. But it’s not a road she intends to follow any longer. “I’m pretty much done with this,” she explains. “I never thought it would take this long. This has been an extremely difficult film to make, and I don’t want to make any more legal films.” Though she’s currently working on a documentary about Richard Pryor, her intentions lean toward narrative films for now. “I’d like to make a romantic comedy, my son would like me to make a children’s film,” she laughs. “Making documentaries is really hard, because you’re working with found objects — what people say to you, and how you can run it together and create something. And with this film, a lot of people didn’t even want to talk. And that’s frustrating. I love the challenge, but it takes a lot out of me.”
There’s even less focus in ‘Odd Man Out’ in regards to the crime itself. That was an intentional decision by Zenovich, who says, “I don’t like the tabloid-ness of it all. I never chose to focus on that night, because I felt like I could never know. You have what you’ve heard, other people know what they’ve heard. And I think it will die with everyone. There are other charges, six or seven, and he pled guilty to one. So in the eyes of the court, it’s the one charge, but in the eyes of everyone else, it’s the others.” Still, she acknowledges the polarizing impact Polanski tends to create within fans, viewers and onlookers. “There’s a lot of venom when it comes to this, and that had to be in there,” she says. “But I tried to show both sides.”
Even with the documentary elements, the Richard Pryor project is an entirely different beast for Zenovich. “The Polanski project was my idea, so they were passion projects,” Zenovich says. “Someone came to me with the Richard Pryor idea. I’m a big Pryor fan, and I didn’t know what he had been through in his life, so it was a big discovery for me. We’ve just started editing, so I’m not sure how we’re going to attack it. Are we going to focus on the fire? We’re almost done with interviews, and then we’ll see.” Though she does seem like the shadow of Polanski may never go away, noting about this new project, “it ended up being another difficult man with the initials R.P.”
“Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out” screens on Saturday, September 29th at the New York Film Festival.