Sisterhood Blog

Why Are Female Directors Silent About Roman Polanski's Arrest?

By Aviva Kempner

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I have yet to hear my fellow female directors calling for Roman Polanski to return to the United States to face sentencing for his admitted guilt of statutory rape.

I guess I mistakenly believed that as women and artists we would be genuinely appalled that a man got away with raping a 13-year-old girl. And now we hear that he did not even pay the victim in the civil lawsuit.

Don’t buy the argument that the passage of years since that crime was committed allows him to avoid judgment. It is just a bogus excuse for a talented director being above the law. We are still tracking down Nazi criminals and bringing them to justice.

Don’t get me wrong. As a child of Holocaust survivors myself, I am sympathetic to Polanski’s horrifying and harrowing childhood. I love his filmmaking and listen to the music from “The Pianist” all the time. I think he deserved the Oscar, but that statue does not also allow him the prize of going scot-free for statutory rape. Rape is rape, Whoopi.

I am so upset that male directors are defending Polanski and no one is speaking out about the rights of young vulnerable girls. Are we going to continue this culture of the male director getting away with rape because young female wannabe wants to be in a film or participate in a photo shoot?

Where are the feminist filmmakers? So far we have only heard publicly from male directors, and yes some actresses, that Polanski should be left alone. I know in the feature world we only make up a sad 5% of directors, but the entertainment industry has to hear our opinions.

Have we lost our voice or did we never have it?

Are we just going to sit back and let Harvey Weinstein — a producer, whose company’s recent film encourages the re-writing of World War II history — speak for the film industry?

Aviva Kempner is a documentary filmmaker. “Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg,” Kempner’s documentary about the actress and screenwriter Gertrude Berg, was released earlier this year.

Sarah Mon. Oct 5, 2009

Indeed, it seems that the much of the film industry has seriously missed the mark with this one. Thanks for taking a stand! I'm looking forward to seeing "Yoo-Hoo, Mrs. Goldberg", on the lineup for my local Jewish film festival. Keep up the good work, all around.

Shalom Tue. Oct 6, 2009

You are absolutely right.

jennifer Tue. Oct 6, 2009

it's sad that so many people are willing to ignore his crime because he is such a great filmmaker. it's unjust to excuse someone of something they did just because that person might otherwise be a contributor to society. wrong is wrong.

m Tue. Oct 6, 2009

it's really shocking how many hollywood people are supportive of him. there is even a petition with a really long list of people who want his freedom. but there is another peititon in support of his arrest. there's a link to it here

Karen Tue. Oct 6, 2009

Well said! I'm glad you're sharing your thoughts.

Anemone Tue. Oct 6, 2009

Aviva, thank you.

@m, I couldn't post on your blog for some reason.

I don't see Natalie Portman's name on the actual list:

Bob Wed. Oct 7, 2009

I'm sickened that you would compare Roman Polanski to a Nazi. Quite frankly, that's a pretty good argument against bringing 85 year-old Nazi guards dying of cancer to justice.

Going after a man who did one bad thing and has been clean for thirty years is nearly as bad as persecuting an innocent man. Of course this is wrong, of course it's extreme, and of course the end results are going to do no good for anyone, least of all the victim, who has called repeatedly for this nonsense to be thrown out.

Now Cokie Roberts has publicly called for Polanski's murder. Doesn't that show you how evil our mentality has become? We're turning into the Germany of the 1930's!

Steve Wed. Oct 7, 2009

It wasn't just male directors or male film types, there were plenty of females supporting his release (Whoppi).

Thankfully, the judicial system and most reasonably minded adults understand that Rape is Rape and Polanski remains in jail pending his extradition proceedings.

@Bob - "going after a man who did one bad thing and has been clean for thirty years is nearly as bad a persecuting an innocent man"? Really Bob, Really?

First - he did a few bad things; he plied a minor with drugs and alcohol, he then had non sentual intercourse with her - generally referred to as Rape, that she was a minor meant the consent was moot, he then fled from prosecution.

Second - How do you know hes been clean for thirty years? Peodophiles generally don't advertise their activities. Further, what bearing does that have on his crime and his flight from prosecution?

Thankfully Bob, most justice systems agree that the ability to avoid arrest for thirty years does not equate to a criminal having paid his/her debt to society.

I ask you Bob, if this had been your daughter how would you feel?

Beth Kruvant Wed. Oct 7, 2009

I hope he comes back and faces the music. I read that there is a long list of Polanski supporters that signed a petition, Woody Allen being one of them. I think Polanski is an extraordinary director,one of my favorites, but that is no excuse. For whatever reason this crime has caught up with him. We live in a world that forgives men for exploiting girls and women. It is so ingrained that we dont see what is happening everyday before our eyes. Sexual trafficking of girls is modern day slavery and is not only happening in Cambodia, but in our cities. We need to raise the awareness of the plight of our sisters!

documentary film director of Heart of Stone

cjride Wed. Oct 7, 2009

From what I understand he was to be sentence to some psychiatric counseling but the judge was a publicity seeker and Polanski was afraid he was going to serve jail time. His pregnant wife was just murdered in cold blood and that threw him off. The girl he raped is even sympathetic to him. If she is willing to forgive him, who are we to say no.

Tom Wed. Oct 7, 2009

He wasn't sentenced to psychiatric evaluation, he was committed to a period of psychiactric evaluation to deterime his level of predatory behavior as a pre-sentencing activity, i.e., "how likely is it that he would again rape a 13 year old child"?.

His wife wasn't just murdered in cold blood, that occurred many years prior to Polanski's rape of the 13 year old.

Whether the victim is sympathetic to him is irrelevant. She reported the rape, he pled guilty to the rape, he owes a debt to society in the form of a judicial sentence. The judicial sentence was never handed down because Polanski became a fugitive and fled from prosecution.

Who are we to say no? We are law abiding citizens who believe that a rapist should face up to their crime and pay their debt to society.

cjride Wed. Oct 7, 2009

I am not trying to defend rape, a heinous crime. 30 or 40 years ago rapist were able to get away with the crime by saying that the woman didn't say no. Show we go back and re sentence those rapists. Would the psychiatric evaluation have determined his level of predatory behavior as being likely not to rape a 13 year old again? It seems he hasn't done that again. What would his sentence have been back then if they did conclude that?

Tom Wed. Oct 7, 2009

I don't follow your logic. You're comparing a guilty man (Polanski) to an innocent man (those who got away with rape 30 or 40 years ago). How do you resentence innocent men?

Polanski pled guilty.

The psyc evalutation results are to provide guidance to the judge in determining the severity of the sentence. If the psyc eval indicated that Polanski didn't view his crime as a crime, it would've weighed against him and the judge would likely have sentenced him to a long jail term rather than a lenient sentence.

How do you know Polanski hasn't struck again? How does anyone know? Pedophiles and rapists operate in secrecy, they don't announce their actions. Perhaps he has struck again and has paid off his victims. Thats as plausible as saying "It seems he hasn't done that (child rape) again".

And whether he has or hasn't struck again is irrelevant; he did strike, back in the 70's, he was revealed to the world as a rapist, he pled quilty to the rape, he fled from prosecution before his sentence was handed down to him, so he is a child-rapist fugitive-from-justice. These are the issues that are being dealt with.

CQ Wed. Oct 7, 2009

@Bob - Even if we could be sure Polanski was 'clean'(what an odd way to describe not continuing to rape minors), justice doesn't and shouldn't work that way. You don't get to say, 'look, judge, how about instead of an appropriate jail sentence, you let me go and I won't do it again?' By running away, Polanski stole the time to 'prove' he (supposedly) hasn't reoffended. He had no right to that. Nobody does and to let him get away with it now would set a dangerous precedent. It's an absurd argument to say someone who evaded justice but hasn't committed another crime for decades is the equivalent of an innocent man. Polanski fans are clutching at straws to defend him.

Aygen( from Istanbul) Thu. Oct 8, 2009

October 8 What I am really annoyed at is the attitude of the Swiss authorities. It is not the first time that Polanskı goes to Switzerland. The American Government (the IRS) are putting enormous pressure on Switzerland to reveal all the accounts of American citizens in Switzerland. Because the Swiss are so avaricious and hypocritical, at first they said "no". Swiss laws forbid Swiss authorities to reveal any bank account except under exceptional circumstances and with a court order. Then when Uncle Sam tightened the screws on the Swiss they agreed to reveal about 5000 accounts held by Americans at UBS. Uncle Sam said that it was not enough. Now there is a big struggle going on between the Swiss and American authorities. So, the devious Swiss, in order to please America, decided that Polanski's visit to Zurich to receive a film award was a good opportunity. They arrested him and at the airport and will probably hand him over to the FBI when the time comes. The Swiss couldn't care less how many girls Polanski may or may not have raped. That is secondary for them. What is most important is "money". The Siss pray to Mamon. To the Golden calf. I hate hypocrits. Aygen

Ian Fri. Oct 9, 2009

And in general, outside film almost almost everyone I've read or heard condemning Polanski is male. Check out YouTube, at this moment at least 90% of those with videos decrying Polanski's crime are men. Then Whooppi comes along trying to water down this rape of a 13yo girl.

And beyond directors, is there even one well-known feminist who has spoken out on this? I'm not getting on anyone's case, it's not something I'd have predicted, but just as a witness I'm baffled to notice this seeming silence and polarization of outrage toward the male side.

Dov Fri. Oct 16, 2009

Tom - His wife wasn't just murdered in cold blood, that occurred many years prior to Polanski's rape of the 13 year old.


hahaha Tom, you are right. after all, Roman had 'many years' (6 years to be precise) to emotionally recover from the stabbing and dismemberment of his wife and unborn child. she was 8 1/2 months pregnant btw, when she was dismembered. I wonder what that would do to a man, to have his wife brutally stabbed to death, to have his child, two weeks from birth, die inside his mother. to have his normal anticipation of being a father unceremoniously and viciously snuffed out, like a bug being squashed.

no biggie, he had 7 years to recover. why, any of us could handle that.

and not only that, it had been many more years since his mother had been gassed in Auschwitz and he was a 7 year old boy in the Krakow ghetto under Nazi occupation.

everyone knows that those kinds of trauma don't last very long, and he had plenty of time to recover from those traumas.

oh, and Aviva, you wrote this ... 'And now we hear that he did not even pay the victim in the civil lawsuit.'

you made some pretty good points in your original screed Aviva, but you didn't need to add a lie to make your case. following the link you supplied, we find these two paragraphs:,0,6765170.story?track=rss

The documents leave open the question of whether the fugitive filmmaker has ever paid the money he promised in the confidential 1993 settlement with Samantha Geimer, but a change in her approach to Polanski in subsequent years suggests they may have resolved the issue.

In 1996, she was still trying to get the funds and even attempted to garnish his pay from movie studios. By the following year, she had stopped asking for court help to get paid and wrote a letter to a judge in support of Polanski returning to the United States and settling his criminal case without spending more time behind bars.

finally Aviva, you say this:

'Don’t get me wrong. As a child of Holocaust survivors myself, I am sympathetic to Polanski’s horrifying and harrowing childhood.'

sure you are, and not only that, you love the music of the Pianist! How special.

as the child of survivors, let me ask you this: Have your parents recovered yet from their ordeal?


Briz in Brooklyn Fri. Oct 23, 2009

Dov - "two wrongs don't make a right", have you heard of that one? So his wife was murdered, that justifies drugging and raping a child? If he was so lonely or needed some "gratification" then he could have paid for it (just putting it out there) or sought the company of an adult.

The guy is slime, and I am being kind. I have not and will continue to avoid viewing any movie or project of any kind that he has a hand in. I hope he rots.

Dov Tue. Nov 3, 2009

Yez Briz, I agree, two wrongs don't make a right. What Roman did was wrong, and he did plead guilty.

whenever sentencing happens in a criminal case, it is an accepted part of western (and Jewish) jurisprudence to consider mitigating circumstances.

that's what I am talking about. The murder of his mother, his incarceration in the Krakow ghetto under Nazi occupation while a young child, and the butchering murder of his wife seem to me to be clear examples of mitigating circumstances in understanding his state of mind.

btw, Roman remarried and he and his wife of 20 years have two young children, not that excuses what he did 34 years ago either. I am sure they would like to see their father again someday.

Dov Thu. Nov 26, 2009

Polanski was freed on bail. He had to surrender his papers and will remain in Switzerland for now.

Aviva, hurry and get you plane tickets to Zurich.

Don't forget your pitchfork.


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