Polanski sex scandal film shakes up Sundance

Sun Jan 20, 2008 1:12pm EST
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By Mary Milliken

PARK CITY, Utah (Reuters) - Thirty years after director Roman Polanski fled the United States and a conviction for unlawful sex with a minor, a U.S. filmmaker has reopened the sensational case in a documentary that is shaking up the Sundance Film Festival.

"Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" debuted this weekend at Sundance, the top U.S. event for independent movies, and already director Marina Zenovich's nonfiction film has secured a worldwide distribution deal from the powerful Weinstein Co.

Show business newspaper Daily Variety reported on Sunday that the documentary division of U.S. cable television channel HBO acquired North American rights, and the film is seen as a top contender in the Sundance documentary competition.

Zenovich told Reuters her documentary does not apologize for the French-Polish director, but her take on the murky justice and media hype around the Polanski case might make Americans see him in a different light after he was vilified in the 1970s for having sex with a 13-year-old girl.

While Polanski has gone on to rebuild his life and career in France and won the highest U.S honor for a filmmaker with the 2003 Academy Award for best director for "The Pianist," he has never returned to the United States nor cleared his name.

The film opens with an archival interview of Polanski admitting to his penchant for young women, something he believes he shares with most men.

Zenovich quickly takes the action to fabulous late 1960s-1970s Hollywood, where a thick-accented Polanski was the toast of the town for his avant-garde films like "Rosemary's Baby."

"It's kind of like a dream, a dream from the seventies, for me," said Zenovich, who pieced together archival footage and interviews to create a hazy, glamorous aura around the era that also saw the brutal murder of Polanski's wife, Sharon Tate.   Continued...

<p>Film director Roman Polanksi is shown surrounded by press in Los Angeles in this undated photograph released January 19, 2008. Polanski is the subject of the documentary film "Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired" by director Marina Zenovich, which is in competition at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The film tells the untold story of the scandal that caused the Polish&#150;born director to flee America. REUTERS/LOS ANGELES TIMES/UCLA Library Department of Special Collections/Sundance Film Festival/Handout</p>