I’m adding Marina Zenovich‘s Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out to my list of Toronto Film Festival essentials. To go by Thom Powers‘ description on the TIFF website, Zenovich’s film — the second Polanski doc unveiled this year (the first being Laurent Bouzereau and Andrew Braunsberg’s Roman Polanski: A Film Memoir) and a kind of sequel to Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired — is at least partly about guilt.
“What happens when an award-winning documentary intended to highlight a legal injustice comes back to haunt its maker?,” Powers writes. “In 2008, director Marina Zenovich’s Emmy Award-winning film Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired brought a radical new understanding to the circumstances surrounding Roman Polanski’s 1977 statutory rape case. Interviewing key participants from both the prosecution and the defense, Zenovich detailed how Polanski couldn’t get a fair trial, prompting him to flee the United States. Even Polanski’s victim, Samantha Geimer, said he was treated unjustly and deserved to have the case dismissed. But these views didn’t stop others from vilifying Polanski. The film’s notoriety seemed to make him even more ‘wanted and desired’ by the authorities.
“When Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in 2009 and threatened with extradition to the United States, Zenovich felt she was partly to blame. Her new film, Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, revisits this endlessly controversial case from several new angles. What possessed the Swiss government to arrest Polanski? For years, he had vacationed in Switzerland and even bought a home there. Was the Swiss government trying to distract attention from an American investigation into its banks? Was the Los Angeles District Attorney grandstanding for his own political ambitions? How far had Zenovich’s own work as a filmmaker unwittingly contributed to Polanski’s arrest?
“Zenovich applies her insider’s knowledge and dogged research to the process of investigating what took place in Switzerland. (The subtitle Odd Man Out refers to the 1947 fugitive drama that Polanski has cited as a favorite.) Whether or not you’ve seen her previous film, this work stands on its own as a shrewd commentary on the collision of life and cinematic art. When it comes to Polanski’s case, opinions have always been more prevalent than facts. An esteemed journalist is caught in an unguarded moment saying, ‘Just take him out and shoot him.’ But Zenovich unearths fresh perspectives and new questions. The film leads us to think about broader questions of legal manipulation, media distortion, and power politics. No matter how much you think you understand this case, you have a lot to learn.”
I wrote the following to Polanski this morning: “Roman — I’ve been friendly with Marina Zenovich for many years, and I intend to see her documentary, Roman Polanski: Odd Man Out, at the Toronto Film Festival. I just heard from her via email (she’s in France now) but forgot to ask her if you and she have corresponded to any degree over the last few years. Have you ever had any contact with Marina? Did you speak with her while she made this film, or while she was cutting it? Have you seen her Odd Man Out doc? By the way, have you seen the British Network Bluray of Carol Reed’s Odd Man Out? Quite beautiful.”