A SLAP IN THE FACE

Polanski, again.

Yes, Polanski again, since the info leaked last September that the film director had been appointed as “historic member” of the Césars’ academy – the French equivalent of the Oscars’ academy.

I am tired of writing about Polanski over and over again, but it seems necessary since this year 2020 has seen the awarding of a César for best director to this man; since this year 2020 has seen 114 French penalists hold up the cause of this man in a column published in the very institutional newspaper “Le Monde”; since my colleague Hervé Témime – Polanski’s lawyer – has also upheld this man.

I’m not even talking about the Césars’ ceremony itself – extremely uncomfortable to watch, as the action took place outside with a feminist protest but also inside with the noticeable exit of two actresses – Adèle Haenel and Céline Sciamma.

I’m not even talking about the police violence perpetrated during a feminist march on March 7.

Following this disgraceful ceremony, the Césars announced changes to ensure parity, after the resignation of its board of directors following accusations of sexism and a call for deep reforms.

But it appears that nothing really changed since – unlike the Academy of Oscars which excluded Roman Polanski – the Academy of Cesars decided to name Roman Polanski as “historical member”.

There is an incredible tolerance in France towards this man, a tolerance that I believe is based in part on a lack of understanding of the facts as a whole.

Whether it is Hervé Témime – the counsel to Roman Polanski – or the 114 French penalists who published (very unfortunately on March 8 – International Women’s Rights Day) in “Le Monde” their forum which was not intended to be a defense of Roman Polanski but which, at the end of the day, was one, the defending speech always focuses on the innocence of the man in question under French law. This is true. But it is insufficient. And a bit misleading when you know that the crux of the legal case is in the United States.

The constant reminder of the principle of the presumption of innocence is salutary, the constant refusal of mob justice via social media is sane, but are we really talking about this in the Polanski case? I don’t believe so.

If we have to speak of Roman Polanski, let’s review the facts.

The massive argument developed by Roman Polanski’s defenders is that Roman Polanski has been the subject of a single judicial complaint which has not given rise to any prosecution: he is therefore not guilty of what is alleged against him since the Samantha Geimer case.

The absence of prosecution against Roman Polanski is absolutely true in France.

But it is a pity that no one dig deeper into the American judicial process, since there lies the Gordian knot of the case.

Roman Polanski, accused of rape by Samantha Geimer in 1977, pleaded guilty – in the so-called “plea bargain” procedure in the United States – for engaging in illegal sex with a 13-year-old minor in exchange for the dismissal of much more serious charges, namely, those of rape of a minor, sodomy and of providing an illegal substance to a minor.

After undergoing an initial 90-day sentence for psychiatric examination, he was released on good behaviour after 42 days.

Prior to the judgment acknowledging his “plea bargain” and of his sentencing, but fearing that the American judge could impose a harsher sentence, Roman Polanski fled the United States and his trial in 1978, to France, a country which does not allow the extradition of its citizens (Roman Polanski is a French national).

Roman Polanski and Samantha Geimer settled the civil lawsuit in 1993.

However, the settlement of the civil suit has no bearing on the criminal case, since the latter is filed in the name of the American people – in the general interest, in short – which explains why this action is still pending. For over 40 years, he has refused to appear before an American court; and as a result Samantha Geimer has had to put up with constant reminders of past events ever since.

In 2009, Polanski was arrested in Switzerland and imprisoned two months, before being placed under house arrest for eight months. These two sentences were the result of him having fled his trial in 1977.

Roman Polanski was not extradited by Switzerland, and – since his escape from the United States – is still considered a fugitive by Interpol to this day.

In a nutshell: Roman Polanski was not convicted by the American courts since he fled prior to the commencement of his trial – but he recognized his guilt by pleading guilty as a part of the plea bargain procedure.

He has never denied or challenged his admission of guilt.

In light of the above, how could Roman Polanski even play “the presumption of innocence” card when himself has admitted his guilt?

The fact that Samantha Geimer forgave Roman Polanski has no bearing on the criminal proceedings, which extend beyond her own case, given they are filed on behalf of the American people.

And since this criminal case is still ongoing, there can be in no application of a statute of limitations.

The presumption of innocence and the statute of limitations cannot apply to Roman Polanski.

The obligation for an accused to answer for his acts before a court is just as important, but is always forgotten when it comes to Roman Polanski.

In light of the seriousness of the crime, 42 days spent in psychiatric evaluation cannot be considered sufficient to pay one’s debt when it comes to the concerned facts.

Having the courage to appear before a judge, confidence in the justice system, facing the consequences of your own actions, or, on the contrary, challenging allegations against you are behaviours worthy of the rule of law which we live by. And moreover by providing a space for a victim to have her voice heard, perhaps even recognized, and to take the path of a possible resilience – for the victim of course but also for the accused one.

When it comes to Roman Polanski, avoiding a global vision, avoiding the American judicial process is in complete discordance with the global women’s emancipation movement.

To come back to the Césars’ academy and Roman Polanski’s appointment as “historic member” of the Césars’ academy, even if the film director recently announced that he would not participate in upcoming general assembly meetings to be held by the Césars’ academy – what a slap in the face of women.

Dear Césars’ academy, what did you miss? You had the golden opportunity to make your own revolution, to evolve with your times and you missed it. You failed women, and because of that, you are so 20th century.

And who needs an outdated cinema academy?

That’s it: no one. Absolutely no one.

PS. The pictures below are very Hollywoodian, because it’s my personal idea of occidental cinema, inhabited by women. Strong women. Sometimes weak. Women who smoke. Women who think. Women who laugh. Women who dress as they wish. In a nutshell, women who are alive. We’ve got a long way to go.

Vintage Sténay dress found at 21 heures 21 – Vintage feathers