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Doc Filmmaker Gets Deeply Embedded With Roman Polanski Case in Scene From ‘Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out’

Doc Filmmaker Gets Deeply Embedded With Roman Polanski Case in Scene From 'Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out'

Following the success of the documentary “Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired,” director Marina Zenovich planned to make a short film about how that film reopened the case. She was scheduled to interview Polanski in November of 2009 after he completed “The Ghost Writer” — but the Oscar-winner was arrested unexpectedly in September of 2009 at the Swiss border. Her follow-up film, “Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out,” explores the motivations behind his surprising arrest and his 10 month house arrest in Switzerland. The film is available nationwide on-demand on Tuesday, March 26. Below, Zenovich shares a scene from her documentary.

I love this scene. It starts with footage that we shot for “Wanted and Desired” but we didn’t use. The District Attorney’s office in Los Angeles has made a book about all the famous cases in Los Angeles through the years. They have the pages of those books on the walls of the lobbies of each of their floors. Of course the Polanski case is there.

I didn’t think I was going to do the voice-over for the film — but when I had a test screening early on and everyone in the audience wondered what I thought about everything we realized I had to be in the film.   

Lawrence Wechsler is someone who wrote a fantastic piece on Polanski for The New Yorker in 1994. (I used it as research for my first film.) Wechsler knows Polanski’s story inside and out.  He was not afraid to tell me that he thought it was my fault that all this was happening — because my film embarrassed the DA.

Peter J. Henning is someone who was quoted a lot in the New York Times about what was going on with the Swiss banking crisis so I contacted him and interviewed him. He was a wealth of information about a lot of things Swiss and legal. It was fun to have an American who was as interested in the Swiss banking saga as I was.


We were excited when we found the footage of the lawyers walking on the street going to the Court of Appeal. You never know this stuff is being filmed when you are filming. (We were inside trying to get a good seat.) Seeing both sides walk into the building brings an urgency to the scene.

Polanski’s team was waiting to have their case heard before the Court of Appeal when Polanski got arrested in September of 2009 so this court appearance was months in the making. 

The Court of Appeal (COA) was something I was very excited to film. We had to get approval, of course, and they actually have one camera feed that they give to news outlets.

This was a very hard scene to cut — in fact I could make a short film about just this court hearing. We cut most of it and just kept in the key points; my voice over kind of guiding you through the scene.

The Court of Appeal is not like a regular courtroom where you have one judge and he/she is speaking in legalese. There are three judges and if they don’t understand what the lawyer is saying they actually interrupt them to try to get to the nub of what they are trying to say….or not say. It is perfect forum for a lay person. The heroine to me (in this scene) is Judge Laurie Zelon who was really dogged in trying to figure out how to end this case. She genuinely couldn’t understand why the DA wasn’t more interested in investigating the ex parte communications. She was relentless in her questioning.

It was so strange for me when I heard Judge Zelon call us a “documentary film group.” I had no idea when I was making this film that we would end up in court. My father, a former judge, always thought “Wanted and Desired” would reopen the Polanski case. 

All Polanski’s team wanted was an evidentiary hearing. All the DA’s team wanted was Polanski to come back. This is the crux of the debate.

When the hearing was over we went outside…it’s always an odd feeling after a hearing…kind of like, what do we film now?!  I ran into an old college friend who is a producer at CNN.  He saw me and started asking me questions and then all of a sudden one camera after another appeared out of nowhere and I was surrounded.  It was a very strange feeling.  Thank God my DP was filming them filming me, so we had the shot.

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