Film Festivals Face a #MeToo Dilemma: Should Accused Harassers Be Banned?

Cinefamily head Hadrian Belove attended last month’s SXSW after being hit by sexual abuse allegations, stirring up emotions and unnerving attendees. It won’t be the last time.

At this year’s SXSW Film Festival, there was at least one attendee who made some people uncomfortable. Ousted Cinefamily owner Hadrian Belove came to Austin with a SXSW badge, six months after allegations of sexual abuse and harassment led to his departure from the Los Angeles independent cinema he founded.

No one suggested Belove did anything wrong at SXSW, but several women told IndieWire they thought his alleged transgressions provided reason enough to expel him. Lee Jameson, a longtime Cinefamily member and a former volunteer, tweeted March 14:  “how can @sxsw claim to support and focus on tackling sexual harassment issues this year and still allow someone like Hadrian Belove to be an accredited attendee and make women feel unsafe?”

As the film community approaches the Tribeca Film Festival, Cannes, and other major film events to come this year, it’s an issue that’s bound to come up in the wake of #MeToo: What happens when accused harrasers resurface in the film community — and what responsibility, if any, do organizers have to control that inevitability?

Freelance critic Monica Castillo, who writes for women-centric site The Lily and also tweeted about Belove’s attendance, was concerned that some of Belove’s alleged victims, many of them still active in the film community, might have unexpectedly encountered him. “Some of the people he may have hurt might of been in attendance,” she said. “How must they feel about seeing him in line or at an SXSW-sponsored event?”

Belove is one of several controversial figures in the independent film world. Former Birth.Movies.Death. editor-in-chief Devin Faraci, who left the Alamo Drafthouse in late 2016 amid sexual assault allegations, quietly started a new film blog. Alamo Drafthouse associate and Ain’t It Cool News founder Harry Knowles announced a temporary departure from his site last fall after multiple women accused him of harrassment and assault, although he’s rumored to still write on the site under an alternate byline.

Read More: Alamo Drafthouse Has Minimized Sexual Assault and Harassment Allegations for Decades — Report

In the fallout, many film organizations have taken steps to protect themselves and their audiences. According to several people with knowledge of the theater chain’s operations, Knowles has been barred from Austin locations of Alamo Drafthouse, which announced its own code of conduct in January. Its affiliated Fantastic Fest revealed a new, female-led board of directors in November with the express goal “to further enhance and refine the experience of the festival and to provide the best, most open and inclusive environment for our family of film-loving fanatics.”

Before this year’s festival, Sundance added both a new code of conduct and a 24-hour safety hotline for concerned attendees or actual victims. Tribeca now has a slightly revised code of conduct that reads, in part: “Tribeca is dedicated to providing an enjoyable, respectful and harassment-free experience for all attendees. We do not condone discrimination, sexism or abusive language and behavior that is degrading to another person or group.” This year’s festival will also play home to the first large-scale New York event from the team behind Time’s Up, with a full day of events and discussions scheduled for its NYC hub.

SXSW has its own code of conduct, which asserts that “SXSW is not a place for behavior that is intentionally inappropriate, off-topic, disruptive, or abusive.” The code also notes that “SXSW may take action in its discretion to address any individual(s) or group(s) it believes fail to meet the standards set forth in this Code of Conduct, including but not limited to revoking the violating parties’ credentials without refund.” A SXSW Attendee Safety Advice guide is also available.

harvey sundance

Harvey Weinstein at the Sundance Film Festival

Shutterstock

Of course, a code of conduct is nothing without action and information to back it up. Castillo believes the onus for ensuring a comfortable environment for attendees rests on the institution.

“I refuse to believe they don’t have a ‘do not allow’ list in the festival that blocks unwanted guests and troublemakers,” she said. “How hard is it to keep up with the trades and find out who you might not feel comfortable admitting into your festival?”

While it might be a tall order to expect SXSW and other events like it to regulate the list of thousands of people who chase badges at the for-profit event, it’s even dicier territory for an event to maintain and enforce a blacklist.

Alison Wilkey, director of public policy at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice’s Prisoner Reentry Institute, said that a private event has the “complete authority or discretion to admit anyone or deny admission to the festival as long as they’re not doing it based on a protected characteristic, so as long as it’s not race-based or gender-based, or based on disability, all the protected classes.”

However, Wilkey expressed serious concern over private events using their own criteria to keep out people, particularly those who have yet to be charged or convicted with crimes. “I can also see how that could be completely abused,” Wilkey said. “You could think about all kinds of ways that they could deny people based on allegations or based on their own personal beliefs about certain kinds of people that don’t rise to the level of protected discrimination.”

Wilkey also cautioned that criminal background checks, floated by some as a possible way to weed out attendees with criminal backgrounds, are expensive and don’t always provide the best or most accurate information. “The criminal-records databases, even when they’re government-based or government-run, are rife with errors,” she said. “There have been numerous lawsuits against these companies for reporting incorrect information because they don’t check their information. To think that a festival would be making some kind of a determination based on records that are incomplete, and without giving the person the ability to actually challenge that record, is incredibly problematic.”

Jameson, who has worked at film festivals in Los Angeles for years, says some “do take a stand and have told abusers ‘you are no longer welcome in this space.’ It’s at their discretion to keep out patrons or guests that have a history of abuse or make other paying attendees feel uncomfortable or unsafe. The challenge is developing a system for communication with the ticketing staff, as they may not be aware of red flags when distributing credentials. At the very least, when attendees band together and voice concern, like they did at SXSW this year, festivals should listen and take action to keep their event a safe, welcoming space for everyone.”

SXSW public relations head Jody Arlington declined to clarify whether Belove purchased the badge or registered for accreditation himself. “We learned via Twitter that Hadrian Belove was a registered attendant,” Arlington wrote in an email. “Safety is a top priority at SXSW and creating a secure and inclusive environment is of paramount importance. We reached out to Belove and received no response.” Belove did not respond to a request for comment.

Castillo hopes that the festival will speak out about the incident, and use it as a way to reestablish their aims. “Ideally, I would like some sort of a statement and gesture/plan of action that would let us know in the film, music, and tech communities that people who abuse others are not welcome at SXSW,” she said.

And sometimes, a complex issue can be rendered simple. Late last year, Sundance director John Cooper was asked by the Salt Lake Tribune if Harvey Weinstein would be welcome back should he ever apply for credentials again. “Harvey has been a fixture at Sundance for years,” Cooper said. “Is he still welcome? He is not.”

At the April 12 press conference announcing the lineup for the Cannes Film Festival, artistic director Thierry Fremaux also addressed Weinstein, saying that the festival “will never be the same” in the wake of revelations about the mogul’s behavior, but did not discuss whether he would be invited back.

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Cinefamily Permanently Shuts Down After Sexual Harassment Allegations

Los Angeles-based movie venue Cinefamily has announced that it will permanently close in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations that led to the exit of executives Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai.
The news comes after the popular venue suspended all its activities in August after the scandal hit. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Cinefamily board of directors made the decision to shutter the organization and dissolve the board.
“The damage caused to the…

Los Angeles-based movie venue Cinefamily has announced that it will permanently close in the wake of the sexual harassment allegations that led to the exit of executives Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai. The news comes after the popular venue suspended all its activities in August after the scandal hit. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Cinefamily board of directors made the decision to shutter the organization and dissolve the board. "The damage caused to the…

Cinefamily Closes For Good, Permanently Tarnished by Sexual Harassment Allegations and Debt

The decade-old non-profit cinematheque will not return to Hollywood’s Fairfax Avenue.

Cinefamily’s temporary closure is now permanent. Following the August resignations of executive director Hadrian Belove and board member Shadie Elnashai amid sexual harassment allegations, the nonprofit West Hollywood theater will not reopen, concluding a 10-year run.

A statement posted November 14 on its website states that the decision was the result of a months-long independent investigation. “While no victims emerged to corroborate the allegation of rape widely circulated in an anonymous email, the investigation identified serious concerns, including breaches of acceptable behavior alleged to have happened at Cinefamily offices and events; a climate that discouraged employees and volunteers from reporting distressing workplace incidents and/or made them feel unheard if they did so; and critical lapses in communication from the executive management and the board,” the statement reads. “We feel strongly that we have made the right decision.”

The statement also references Cinefamily’s “crippling debt,” which combined with the reputation-destroying allegations to form the “irreparable” final blow. A transition team will help the organization tie up all loose legal and monetary matters as it departs Fairfax Avenue’s Silent Movie Theatre, which the landlord will renovate.

Until recently, the board included Ted Hope, head of production at Amazon Original Movies; “The Lego Movie” co-writer and co-director Phil Lord; and “21 Jump Street” scribe Michael Bacall. Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, who co-founded Women of Cinefamily, exited the board August 23.

When it was established in 1942, the Silent Movie Theatre was a perplexing addition to the Hollywood independent theater scene since it arrived 15 years after films began featuring sound. Nonetheless, it became one of the city’s best-attended arthouse venues.

At least one recurring block of Cinefamily programming will return elsewhere: La Collectioneuse, a monthly “cinematic saloon”  for Francophiles, will bring a dance party and Philippe Puicouyoul’s 1981 feature “The Brunette and I” to Zebulon next Wednesday, November 22.

Read the full statement from Cinefamily below.

 


 

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Geek Girls vs. the Boys’ Club: How Arthouse Scandals Are Shifting the Culture

Ten years ago this month, Hadrian Belove was about to launch Cinefamily, a repertory theater that would feature weird and hard-to-find movies. He was sitting in the theater with his friend, Matt Cornell, who would handle operations. “He told me there would be groupies coming once we opened,” Cornell recalls. “He was letting me know […]

Ten years ago this month, Hadrian Belove was about to launch Cinefamily, a repertory theater that would feature weird and hard-to-find movies. He was sitting in the theater with his friend, Matt Cornell, who would handle operations. “He told me there would be groupies coming once we opened,” Cornell recalls. “He was letting me know […]

Cinefamily Temporarily Suspends All Activities In Wake Of Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Popular Los Angeles-based film venue Cinefamily has announced that it will suspend all activities following allegations of sexual harassment that led to the exit of executives Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai.
In a statement released on their website and social media platforms, Cinefamily said, “Recently, claims were made alleging improper behavior by one of more members of the organization.” It continues, “The Board of Directors of The Cinefamily has no tolerance for…

Popular Los Angeles-based film venue Cinefamily has announced that it will suspend all activities following allegations of sexual harassment that led to the exit of executives Hadrian Belove and Shadie Elnashai. In a statement released on their website and social media platforms, Cinefamily said, "Recently, claims were made alleging improper behavior by one of more members of the organization.” It continues, "The Board of Directors of The Cinefamily has no tolerance for…

Cinefamily Suspends All Activities Following Sexual Harassment Charges

The board for the arthouse theater has also hired an independent investigator to look into “any alleged impropriety.”

Following the resignations of executive director Hadrian Belove and board member and Shadie Elnashai, Cinefamily has closed, temporarily suspending “all Cinefamily activities in order to allow for the investigation and necessary restructure of management and the board.”

The Cinefamily board asked for the resignations last week after an anonymous email circulated claiming that Belove “has been accused of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse by former employees and volunteers” and accused Elnashai of “raping multiple women, all verbally threatened and scared into silence after the assaults.”

The Cinefamily announcement, which is posted prominently on its site and social media, also said it has “engaged an independent third party, Giles Miller at Lynx Insights & Investigations, to conduct a thorough investigation into any alleged impropriety.”

The letter, which is signed by “The Board of The Cinefamily,“ added: “We want to reassure our members and staff that The Board will take all steps available to us to restore their faith in The Cinefamily.”

Shortly after the resignations of Belove and Elnashai, Women of Cinefamily co-founder Brie Larson posted her own statement calling for further investigation into the allegations. A source close to both Larson and her co-founder, Alia Penner, said that they planned to step back from involvement with the organization for the foreseeable future.

Cinefamily – also known as the historic Silent Movie Theater – was co-founded 10 years ago by brothers Dan and Sammy Harkham along with former Cinefile Video founder Belove. It become one of the most popular independent theaters in Los Angeles. The venue is known for its programming of first-run features from boutique distributors in addition to wide-ranging retrospective programming.

The theater’s current screening was Alejandro Jodorowsky’s “Endless Poetry.” Repertory series The History of the Midnight (July 27-Sept.1) and The Zanzibar Films (Aug. 19-31) have canceled the remainder of their shows.

Hadrian Belove Resigns From Cinefamily After Anonymous Email Alleges Sexual Harassment

The anonymous email circulated to hundreds of members of the film community this week.

Hadrian Belove has resigned as executive director of Cinefamily, the independent Los Angeles-based theater he co-founded in 2007, after an anonymous email circulated this week detailing sexual harassment allegations against him and the Cinefamily board.

The anonymous email, which went to hundreds of members of the independent film community and the media, said Belove “has been accused of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse by former employees and volunteers. It is a deep seated behavior pattern that many in the community are already aware of.”

The email included excerpts from a 2014 lawsuit filed against Belove and Cinefamily by a former employee that cited sexual harassment as well as work-rule violations. That case was settled out of court.

In addition to Belove, the Cinefamily board accepted the resignation of board vice president Shadie Elnashai, whom the email accused of “raping multiple women, all verbally threatened and scared into silence after the assaults.”

Cinefamily – also known as the historic Silent Movie Theater – was co-founded 10 years ago by brothers Dan and Sammy Harkham along with former Cinefile Video founder Belove. It has blossomed into one of the most popular independent theaters in Los Angeles. The venue is known for its programming of first-run features from boutique distributors in addition to wide-ranging retrospective programming.

Cinefamily issued the following statement in response to the allegations. Belove, whose name has already been removed from Cinefamily’s website, posted his own statement on Facebook. That statement is also included below, in addition to the email sent out today.

From Cinefamily:

Recently an email has been circulating which makes dark and disturbing claims about the Cinefamily.  These allegations are deeply troubling. We take all claims incredibly seriously and want all members of our community to feel safe. If anyone has experienced verbal or physical harassment, we encourage them to report it to us at SpeakUp@Cinefamily.org, or to contact the LAPD. We have been coordinating with Officer Russel Hess of the Wilshire Precinct. He can be reached by calling (213) 473-0476.

Our non-profit organization has zero tolerance for any action intended to harm or injure our staff, volunteers, or patrons. Any claims made are dealt with swiftly and directly, with respect and moral integrity. In the two years since the appointment of our Executive Managing Director, Trevor Jones, we have received one harassment claim. That claim was of a non-violent nature, and was investigated thoroughly. We immediately reviewed the procedures in place for reporting claims, and emphasized our absolute commitment to protect any victim of harassment, including the creation of new roles within the organization to foster open channels of communication. Action was taken in response to the claim to the satisfaction of the claimant. We also instituted an annual harassment in the workplace seminar hosted by Ogletree Deakins, a firm specializing in employment law.

Our staff and volunteers are hardworking, dedicated individuals, devoted to building a welcoming and inclusive environment–one that is defined by mutual respect and shared passion for film culture. Now, more than ever, we are actively working to fulfill our responsibility to you–our patrons, members, community, and city. It is a privilege to do so.

In light of recent events, Shadie Elnashai has resigned from Cinefamily’s Board of Directors and Hadrian Belove has resigned as the Executive Creative Director of Cinefamily.

The Cinefamily

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