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by Peter Knegt
October 1, 2009 4:53 AM
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"Desired" Director Zenovich Responds To Polanski Prosecutor's "Lies"

"Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" director Marina Zenovich with producer Lila Yacoub at a post-screening party after the film's Sundance world premiere. Photo by Brian Brooks

Marina Zenovich, director and produced of last year's doc "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired," has released a statement regarding retired Los Angeles County prosecutor David Wells' decision to come forward yesterday and allege that he lied on camera during the filming of Zenovich's doc. Wells - who advised Polanski's judge back in 1978 - said in "Desired" that he spoke to Superior Court Judge Laurence J. Rittenband before sentencing and told the judge that Polanski deserved prison time. Yesterday, he told The Los Angeles Times that "hat was not true... I like to speak of it as an inept statement, but the reality is that it was a lie.”

Wells said that he made up the story, "believing that the documentary would never been shown in the United States."

Today Zenovich released a statement in this regard.

“I am perplexed by the timing of David Wells’ statement to the press that he lied in his interview with me for the documentary 'Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,'" she said. "Since June of 2008, the film has been quite visible on U.S. television via HBO, in theaters and on DVD, so it is odd that David Wells has not brought this issue to my attention before."

Zenovich said that the day she filmed Mr. Wells at the Malibu Courthouse, he gave her a one-hour interview. "He signed a release like all my other interviewees, giving me permission to use his interview in the documentary worldwide," she said. "At no time did I tell him that the film would not air in the United States."

She went on to say she is "astonished" that Wells has changed his story. "Mr. Wells was always friendly and open with me," she said. "At no point in the four years since our interview has he ever raised any issues about its content. In fact, in a July 2008 story in The New York Times, Mr. Wells corroborated the account of events that he gave in my film... It is a sad day for documentary filmmakers when something like this happens.”

Roman Polanski was taken into custody by Swiss police on Sunday regarding the 1978 U.S. arrest warrant for having sex with a 13-year-old girl. Polanski was flying in to receive an honorary award at the Zurich Film Festival when he was detained late Saturday at the airport, organizers at the festival said in a statement. Zurich police since confirmed the arrest, but have refused to provide more details because he said it was a matter for the Swiss Justice Ministry. Switzerland and the U.S. have an extradition treaty dating back to the 1950s that is still in force.

For a more extensive detailing of Polanski's arrest and potential extradition to the United States, check out indieWIRE's previous coverage, including an a petition urging his immediate release. Over 100 people, including Woody Allen, Martin Scorsese, Wong Kar-Wai, Pedro Almoodvar, David Lynch, Alexander Payne and Julian Schnabel have signed the petition, which has resulted in a intense display of both solidarity and criticism in what has exploded into a significant culture war.

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8 Comments

  • moviemaker2008 | November 7, 2009 7:45 AMReply

    Godfrey and Dwyerzirish,

    Neither of you know the details of this case. You are speaking emotionally from what you perceive as wrong, and from your limited viewpoint.

    DA's & Prosecutors throw the book when someone commits a crime. They stack up charges upon charges, knowing the more they do, the more something will stick. (And for other reasons as well.)

    The deal struck between prosecution and defense was one charge. And the deal made, that the judge agreed to, was time already served. The only thing that remained was sentencing.

    From both sides of the court, because both sides have publicly spoken about this, there was an acknowledgment that the presiding judge in this case had a tendency to abuse his power and -- literally -- break the law. That those close to the case inside the court knew the judge was intending to reneg on the plea deal and impose a different sentence -- you're right, this is still no excuse for FTA and leaving the country. However, it is understandable, to a degree. Polanski was facing a corrupt judge, and he didn't want to take a chance. However, he should have faced the judge anyway, and then his lawyers could appeal or file motions against the judge (or whatever legal remedies may have been available).

    You also had the so-called victim at the time, who didn't want this to go on and on. It's amazing that so many people ignore her own situation & history at the time, the evidence that she was sexually active, and her numerous public calls to let this case be put to rest and stop this persecution of Polanski.

    But no, those in the public -- even today -- who claim moral superiority, think they should be jury, judge and executioner, regardless of what the "victim" has said and currently says, and regardless of what the former prosecutor has said and currently says. That everyone on that side at the time wants this to be let go and put to rest -- this speaks volumes over those with faux moral superiority complexes.

    Those of you who are railing on about this case, maybe you should actually study or read up on the details of what happened at the time, before weighing in from ignorance.

  • dwyerzirish | October 22, 2009 8:59 AMReply

    Godfrey is dead on. It doesn't matter how the prosecution handled the subsequent prosecution. It doesn't change the fact that he drugged and violated this little girl. If someone does that to my daughter I will Samuel Jackson (A Time To Kill) his ass and dare them to lock me up.

  • farly | October 7, 2009 4:55 AMReply

    I'm shocked to discover this "documentary" was made and produced by women. For shame!

  • Godfrey | October 6, 2009 4:41 AMReply

    moviemaker: the subject at hand was actually journalistic integrity, but I'll indulge you.

    First, by your use of the phrase "Polanski’s crime from 31 years ago" I assume you're of the opinion that enough time has passed to render Polanski's "youthful indiscretion" (Polanski's own words: he was, after all, an ebullient tyke of 44 at the time) irrelevant these three decades later.

    I disagree.

    So what should his punishment be? Let's keep in mind that he skipped town after agreeing to a plea deal. Please don't cite the documentary's contention that he did so because he found out the prosecutor was planning to renege on his plea deal: that's what the appellate courts are for.

    So, assuming his flight to Europe and his subsequent 30 years on the lam constitute an abnegation of his plea deal, the original charges still stand: "rape by use of drugs, perversion, sodomy, lewd and lascivious act upon a child under 14, and furnishing a controlled substance to a minor" (according to Wikipedia).

    Should he be punished for such frivolous acts? Would we be having this conversation at all if he wasn't a famous and talented filmmaker? What if he was a guy named Ron from Topeka and he drugged and anally raped your daughter/sister/cousin... would it matter then that he'd managed to avoid capture for 30 years?

    And what should his punishment be?

    Here's a novel idea: let's let the courts decide. After all, that's what was supposed to have happened in the first place.

  • moviemaker2008 | October 4, 2009 10:26 AMReply

    Here's what I'd kind of like to know from Godfrey, or anyone here who's emotions run high over Polanski's crime from 31 years ago:

    What do you feel his punishment should be, at this point?
    I'm not saying this rhetorically, but what do you think it should be? More jail time? A fine? Both?

    I have not seen Zenovich's documentary, but from what I understand, the deal made between defense and prosecution was a plea deal, in which Polanski's sentence would be reduced to time served. IF this is true, then the only remaining crime is that he jumped bail and did not show up in court.

    Plea deals for every imaginable crime happen every day in the courts in this country. Who has the right to "judge" what is acceptable in any plea deal, except for the parties involved and affected (and what they're willing to agree to)? People who commit 2nd degree murder sometimes get their crimes reduced to manslaughter. Is this right? Or fair? It happens.

    So I'd really like to hear from those still angry with Polanski, what they feel his punishment should be at this point.

  • Godfrey | October 4, 2009 8:42 AMReply

    Peter: It might be too late to respond; sorry for not checking back sooner.

    Your points are all valid except one: as a journalist, I think it is poor practice to assume readers know more about a situation than is readily apparent. It is your job to inform them. There have been a lot of people who were under the impression that Polanski's crime amounted to statutory rape, when in fact that charge was part of a plea deal...a deal on which he reneged by fleeing the country. So to use the justification that the actual "charge" was statutory rape without noting...in ANY of the IW articles I've found on the subject...that he drugged and forcibly raped a child represents a serious journalistic shortcoming on the part of IndieWire.

    You have not, by the way, failed to note the groundswell of support from dozens of famous people; nor have you failed to quote the statements of "shock and dismay" of numerous other people involved with the case, most of whom appear to be on Polanski's side. You have covered these people's statements quite admirably, even going so far as to print the entire "free Roman" petition.

    Can you see how this might make you appear biased? I know this isn't CNN, but this a serious event in the film community, and that's what IW is all about. So the reporting should be taken much more seriously.

    If you're serious about covering the story, take it from a filmmaker who has also studied journalism; your job is to tell it like it is, and to avoid at all costs becoming a mouthpiece for people who are trying to manipulate the truth.

    Journalism is not about parsing a story to make it devoid of controversy, and it is not merely about telling both sides; it's about making judgment calls as to what is true and what is not, and reporting it accordingly... no matter what Harvey wants.

  • Peter Knegt | October 2, 2009 3:13 AMReply

    Godfrey: This is an intensely touchy and dividing topic, as the comments sections of these stories have suggested. These articles are meant to simply and without opinion relay information on specific stories within the current events surrounding Polanski. There is only brief contextual reference to the events of Polanski's initial crime and arrest. When I write "the 1978 U.S. arrest warrant for having sex with a 13-year-old girl," that was Polanski's charge - sex with a minor. I understand that there is much, much more to the story than that, and acknowledge what you say is true - he did, rape, and drug, a 13 year old girl. But this story, for example, is at its core about Marina Zenovich's statement, not about what happened in 1978. So I decided going into detail about the latter was not necessary. This was simply our decision, and not one meant to whitewash the issue. I assumed most of our readers were either aware of the nature of Polanski's crime or would research beyond iW if they wanted a more extensive history. Though nonetheless, I do apologize if you felt it disrespected the situation... I respect your opinion as an iW reader and appreciate you both speaking up, and making us our homepage. And hopefully it remains your homepage in spite of this.

  • Godfrey | October 1, 2009 12:27 PMReply

    Hey IndieWire writers (especially Peter Knegt and Brian Brooks); you really have GOT to stop whitewashing the situation here.

    Roman Polanski did not "have sex with" a 13-year-old girl. He didn't "have intercourse with" a 13-year-old girl.

    He DRUGGED a 13-year-old girl, then he RAPED that 13-year-old girl. In the ASS. I think you owe it to your loyal readers (IW is my HOMEPAGE, for chrissakes) and to your own journalistic integrity (such as it is) to relay the situation exactly as it is.