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The Schmooze

Convicted Rapist Roman Polanski Will Rehash Dreyfus Affair In ‘J’Accuse’

Sometimes you need a large amount of bile in a short period of time — for, say, a home improvement project, or a reenactment of medieval medical practices

Let’s make our own! We’ll start by reading this news:

Roman Polanski, who in 1977 pled guilty to raping a 13-year-old girl — he had, he later explained in his autobiography, given her quaaludes — just announced that he is making a movie called “J’Accuse,” which will tell the story of the Dreyfus Affair.

Need a reminder about the Dreyfus Affair? Get that gallbladder churning! Here it is:

In 1894, according to My Jewish Learning, Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army, was arrested and charged with espionage. He was convicted and sentenced to lifelong imprisonment on Devil’s Island, despite minimal-to-no credible evidence tying him to the charge. When members of the government found the real culprit two years later, they concealed the information. When it came out, a jury acquitted the culprit, in spite of clear proof of his guilt. Dreyfus was granted a retrial, the coverage of which was characterized in the press by virulent anti-Semitism. Ultimately, Dreyfus, though completely innocent, served seven more years on Devil’s Island before he was exonerated. Famously, witnessing the Dreyfus trial as a young reporter had a massive impact on the Zionism of Theodore Herzl, popularly considered the Father of the modern State of Israel.

By contrast, Roman Polanski is a renowned filmmaker who, according to his own admission and a court’s findings, drugged and raped a 13-year-old girl. Since then, four other women have come forward with allegations that they were sexually assaulted by Polanski as children.

It’s impossible to imagine that Polanski’s choice to tell this particular story isn’t a thinly-veiled attempt to rehabilitate his narrative, so let’s talk about the similarities: Dreyfus and Polanski were/are both Jewish, male Europeans who were accused of crimes.

Now, let’s talk about the differences: Dreyfus was unfairly charged based, at least partially, on senseless discrimination; later exculpatory evidence was uncovered and he was exonerated. He was an innocent person who was scapegoated by a corrupt legal system and the victim of a massive, government-wide coverup.

Polanski is a man who drugged and raped at least one child and has been vacationing in Europe ever since.

Polanski’s belief that he is the right person to make a movie about the miscarriage of justice, and arguably to make any art at all, should be shocking. Yet he’s succeeding in it: He already has Oscar-winner Jean Dujardin onboard to star, and the French studio Legende Films is backing the film. The celebrated filmmaker, whom Hollywood showered with accolades for his 2003 Holocaust movie “The Pianist” only months ago made headlines with a contrite, thoughtful reflection of the new culture of victim-belief. Just kidding, he said that the #MeToo movement is an example of “collective hysteria” and that he “can’t stop laughing” about it.

Give this dude a production budget to make a story about disgusting episodes of injustice! Let him take a story that’s vital to the Jewish narrative of autonomy and use it to rewrite his own personal history! We, too, can’t stop laughing — or crying.

Jenny Singer is the deputy lifestyle editor for the Forward. You can reach her at [email protected] or on Twitter @jeanvaljenny

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