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Pondering Polanski in New Doc (Now Coming to a Theater Near You)

Pondering Polanski in New Doc (Now Coming to a Theater Near You)

In the wake of a small Oscar qualifying run this spring and then an HBO cable TV premiere last month, Marina Zenovich‘s “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired” officially opens in theaters this weekend. indieWIRE first covered the film shortly after its Sundance Film Festival debut.

Nearly a decade after the sensational murder of his beautiful wife, actress Sharon Tate, by the Manson family, celebrated director Roman Polanski was again the subject of a media onslaught after being convicted of statutory rape with a 13 year-old girl in 1977. What followed was a salacious mix of trumped up headlines, frenzied reporters and an attention-starved judge much more eager to satisfy his own desires to tap into the celebrity mix, than adjudicating justice.

The Oscar-winning “Rosemary’s Baby” director’s outrageous roller coaster trial is the subject of director Marina Zenovich’s gripping Sundance competition doc “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” which had its world premiere in Park City, UT on the first Friday of the fest. Brilliantly edited and exquisitely compiled using archival footage along with present-day interviews with figures intricately involved with the trial, the screening was packed with buyers, press and industry who were riveted with the story of fame and tragedy that is not unlike today’s celebrity obsessed media fixation.

The film was the subject of immediate buyer interest after its world premiere, with Submarine brokering a deal with The Weinstein Company for international rights and then HBO scoring North American rights days later.

“I got the idea [for the film] five years ago this month,” said Zenovich (director of “Who is Bernard Tapie” and “Independent’s Day“), during a post-screening Q&A at Park City’s Holiday Village cinema. “For me, [this film] is about people, and I told the people [involved with this case] that the story had never been properly told. It’s not just a story about Roman Polanski, it’s about these people and the case.” Zenovich and her producers eagerly conveyed their desire to not turn the film into an “‘Inside Edition’ or Fox News report” when telling the story, which most likely helped their cause in completing the film by gaining access.

While the Polanski interviews in the film are archival, the director – who now lives in virtual exile in France – appears to have given tacit approval as Zenovich was able to speak extensively with Polanski’s lawyer, Douglas Dalton, in addition to the prosecuting attorney Roger Gunson (who agrees the trial proceedings became a sham), as well as some of the director’s high-profile friends (among them Mia Farrow).

Zenovich also speaks with the now adult Samantha (Gailey) Geimer, the victim in the case, who complained that the judge was only worried about his own celebrity.

While Polanski’s legacy is still open for debate, the documentary received a rapturous seal of approval after its debut, with some industry insiders beaming, “this is an Oscar nomination for sure…” Another leading industry figure, who spoke with indieWIRE after a Sundance press and industry showing, said that it was time for the industry to forgive Polanski and put the sordid affair in the past once and for all.

Speaking about the continued intrigue decades after the sensational headlines first splashed across the Western-world’s papers, the film’s German-born D.P. Tanja Koop told indieWIRE, at a post-screening cocktail party, that public judgement of Polanski is distinctly different in the U.S. than in Europe generally. “In Europe, there’s a greater appreciation for the complexity of the situation. There’s a different approach to morals and ethics… [and] I remember being young myself and I wouldn’t judge somebody…”

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