Polanski: Support and Backlash

Support is growing for Roman Polanski, and so is a backlash. Some French politicians are not siding so closely with the artistic community in their defense of the jailed filmmaker while other folks from all over are weighing in with indignation that Polanski should receive special treatment.

More names have been added to the petition started in France, which Wiretap was first to post on Monday morning while a similar one has now been floated. At least one big-name French filmmaker, however, has chosen to abstain from adding his support even though he says of Polanski “our daughters are friends.”

Scores of prestigious filmmakers and industry players have now added their names to the petition, which began being circulated on Sunday, including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Patrice Chereau, Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Buck Henry, Diane Kurys, Jean Labadie, Claude Lelouch, David Lynch, Richard Pena, Jacques PerrinJerry Schatzberg and Andre Techine.

Further, French sales, distribution and finance outfit Wild Bunch tells Wiretap it has pulled Jan Kounen‘s Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky from the Zurich Film Festival in a sign of protest. Coco & Igor was the closing night film at Cannes this year.

Further, another petition has now been started by Henri-Bernard Levy, which reads:

“Apprehended like a common terrorist Saturday evening, September 26 in Zurich, as he came to receive a prize for his entire body of work, Roman Polanski is now in prison. He risks extradition to the United States for a thirty-year-old affair whose principal plaintiff repeats with hue and cry that she has put the story behind her and abandoned any idea of legal proceedings. Seventy-six years old, a survivor of Nazism and of Stalinist persecution in Poland, Roman Polanski risks spending the rest of his life in jail for deeds which should normally be beyond the statute-of-limitations in Europe.

“We ask the Swiss federal justice system to free him immediately and not to turn this brilliant filmmaker into a martyr of a political-legal imbroglio that is unworthy of two democracies like Switzerland and the United States. Good sense, as well as honor, demands it.”

Signatories on that petition include Salman Rushdie, Milan Kundera, Neil Jordan, Mike NicholsDiane von Furstenberg and Paul Auster.

On the other side of the fence are some of France’s politicians who have come out to accuse President Nicolas Sarkozy’s administration of jumping too quickly to Polanski’s defense. Included among them are Daniel Cohn-Bendit, a French deputy in the European Parliament from the Green Party and Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen – the father and daughter from the extreme right National Front party who said officials were supporting “a criminal pedophile in the name of the rights of the political-artistic class,” The New York Times reports.

One person from the artistic class whose name has been absent from any petition is Luc Besson. “Our daughters are good friends,” Besson told France’s RTL radio. “But there is one justice, and that should be the same for everyone.”

The Wrap reports that in Poland, the prime minister asked his Cabinet members to subdue their angry calls for the release of Polanski, noting that the case involved “punishment for having sex with a child.”

Polanski’s lawyers have asked that the director be released from Swiss custody where he now resides following his arrest on Saturday on a 31-year old warrant stemming from having pleaded guilty to sex with a minor.

“Our first concern, and principle concern, is that Mr. Polanski be set free” from jail while “remaining on Swiss territory,” Polanski’s French attorney Herve Temime said, TW reports. “He has a chalet in Switzerland. He would naturally accept to be placed under house arrest during the follow-up of the extradition proceedings.”

Meanwhile, the mood in blog comments both in the US and in France is for the most part against Polanski. Of the nearly 30,000 respondents to an online poll from French daily Le Figaro, more than 70% feel he should be judged (then again, Web site L’Internaute also has a poll wherein over 70% of respondents think he should be freed).

That 70% figure is an interesting one: On CNN, a poll asking whether he should be extradited to the US also shows 70% in favor.

And on blogs like Deadline.com and Hollywood-Elsewhere.com, the comments skew overwhelmingly against Polanski.

Now that Harvey Weinstein has weighed in via a piece in The Independent, will his comment that he is “not too shy to go and talk to the Governor of California” to ask him to look at the situation hold much sway?

It’s unlikely given the stance of the LA District Attorney’s office. Spokeswoman Jane Robison responded to questions from FoxNews.com thusly:

Q. Will the DA respond to pressure from Tinseltown’s biggest bigwigs?

A. “No.”

A. Will the DA consider their plea to give up on extradition?

A. “No.”

Q. Does the DA have any plans to meet with the directors allying themselves with Polanski?

A. “No.”

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