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Karl Spoerri (Zurich Fest Artistic Director) comments his festival and the Polanski hiatus

I had the opportunity to interview Karl Spoerri Artistic Director of Zurich Film Festival a few days before the festival was over.

Polanski's arrest  suddenly put the festival in the spotlight. It clearly was wrong unwanted publicity...but still publicity.

This being said, my first question to Karl
BC: What are you most proud of in the 2009 edition of Zurich festival?
RS: A brilliant competition (30 films in 3 competitions) so beautiful, and the reaction in the audience wonderful, all directors in competition are attending and live as a group with great interaction this is huge satisfaction.

BC: How did the audience react to Terry Gilliam presentation of Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus?
RS: Yes it was real fun, like a rock concert, probably his best movie and the audience loved the movie and really enjoyed his performance in the Q&A

BC: How did you react when learning about Roman Polanski's arrest at the airport?
RS: This came as a huge shock, and I was so sad.

I found out through his first call out of jail. We had a lot of work to do over night to organize everything for him, appoint his lawyers in Switzerland. The French ambassador confirmed to me he was fine...

BC: His friend Danielle Thomson who spoke with him says he is positive and ready to fight back.

RS: This is good to hear!
There was a big frustration from the high interest in his Master-class, especially among the young filmmakers. I had to make that sad announcement and cancel. We kept the homage and showed his classic films. Although it felt more like funeral than a celebration they were wonderful to watch and seemed like made yesterday! They have not aged at all, it is simply amazing. Take The Pianist, The Vampire's Ball, Rosemary's Baby, Chinatown, such classic masterworks!.

BC: Do you think that the shocked reactions from the artistic community in Europe demanding his release are helping Roman Polanski?

RS: Well first I am just the man who tried to organize homage? Like I said I was shocked, I can also very well understand that the reaction from the public is different from the artistic opinion.
I thought it served him well initially, I have some afterthoughts now.

BC: I must confess I do too, when hearing this and probably because I know Roman Polanski a little and respect him a lot I was quick at commenting on our websites (so festivals are no longer a safe place) I created a Facebook cause Release Polanski...I know realize it is becoming highly suspect to support Roman Polanski. (Ask Frederic Mitterrand!)

This is to my knowledge a first time in festival history that someone gets arrested?

RS: Yes think so

Thank you Karl,
Thank you Bruno

Dennis Dembia who handles the Festival publicity at Rogers & Cowan declared "the main thing we want to get across to people is that despite what happened with Polanski - the festival has moved on and it is a magnificent festival and environment! We have great films, filmmakers, stars and industry who should not be overshadowed! There is so much more. We have Michael Keaton and Morgan Freeman coming in still and many big nights ahead. I guess my message is that the Zurich Film Festival shines on and perseveres!
Triumph through adversity!! Its a success story"

Morgan Freeman

Michael Keaton

Peter Fonda

Terry Gilliam, Photos Zurich Film Festival

We have here fantastic material for marketing research with two main questions.
Is Big publicity Good publicity? I am giving you here some personal conclusions (Bruno Chatelin's) as a "marketing expert" (I have launched about 250 films in France as marketing director)

Will that kind of publicity serve Zurich?
Of course the Polanski case has overshadowed the festival awards... but I think it will globally serve the festival in a few months because it is accompanied with other strong signs of success (like major stars attendance) and this is clearly not something that can be interpreted as a festival strategy to raise awareness more a "force majeure".
I would also recommend consolidating this quickly.

Will the loud support from the filmmaking community serve Roman Polanski?
I do not think it will serve him, and I do not think he needs that support.
herewith a couple of online petitions

Filmmakers in France, in Europe, in the United States and around the world are dismayed by this decision. It seems inadmissible to them that an international cultural event, paying homage to one of the greatest contemporary filmmakers, is used by the police to apprehend him. SACD Petition

Petitions on facebook Free Polanski from Jean-Yves Chalangeas, another Facebook cause the cause to free Roman Polanski...

This reminds me of the catch line of "Threesome" a film which I released twenty years ago: "Sex is like pizza, even when it is bad it is still good."

Bruno Chatelin

 

 

 

 

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