This week has been quite the shitshow in the film community. A lot of ugliness came to the surface via the Alamo Drafthouse
and Cinefamily debacles, but how many women in the industry can really say they are surprised? We all know this type of behavior is rampant and typically goes unchecked.
Back in October, Birth.Movies.Death editor-in-chief Devin Faraci
was publicly accused of sexual assault. He resigned from the site, which is owned by Drafthouse. While it seemed like this particular entitled dude in the film world, who supposedly supported women and was seen as a feminist ally, actually faced consequences for his actions — which is rare — we weren’t being told the whole story. It turns out his employment continued. Alamo Drafthouse
CEO Tim League
kept him on the payroll. He had been quietly working for Drafthouse as a copywriter — until this fact became public knowledge last week. People flipped out, and rightfully so. Now Faraci has resigned once again.
This problem is bigger than Faraci, though his actions are particularly odious. Todd Brown
, a programmer for Drafthouse-owned Fantastic Fest, succinctly summarized the wider context. He resigned from the fest, and in a post on Facebook, explained, “Anyone who has ever suggested that Fantastic Fest and the Drafthouse is just the geek friendly equivalent of the classic Old Boys Club
, you have just been proven correct. There it is
, the Club utterly ignoring the victim while it creates a protective ring around the perpetrator.”
In the aftermath of this controversy, League acknowledged in a Facebook post that “a culture of sexual harassment and gender inequality persists in our society and specifically within the film industry, and much work remains to fix this problem.” He continued, “by engaging in dialogue about these issues, and by holding people responsible for their actions, we can begin to bridge the gap between where we are now, and where we need to be. Without question, sexual misconduct is impermissible. The question is whether there is any path to redemption, and if so, what that path looks like.”
This is not what that path looks like. And that can’t even be up for debate. Faraci’s employment was kept secret for a reason. League knew how the news would be received.
“Devin has spent the time since this allegation examining the choices he made that led to it,” League wrote. “He has recognized and acknowledged his struggles with substance abuse; after stepping down, he immediately entered recovery and has been sober ever since. This is an important step in the right direction. His departure from Birth.Movies.Death meant losing his job, his livelihood, his career, and his place in the film community, but Devin has started the work to rebuild himself first with the understanding that all else is secondary. Seeing the work that Devin has been doing to acknowledge his faults, to address his addiction, and to better himself, I thought it was important to contribute to his recovery process by helping him with some means to earn a living. Once it became clear that his efforts were sincere, I offered Devin copywriting work at Alamo Drafthouse
and have recently expanded that to include writing blurbs for our Fantastic Fest festival guide. He does not hold any leadership position at Alamo Drafthouse
or Fantastic Fest and is not involved with Birth.Movies.Death. in any capacity.”
But what about the recovery process of the women who were impacted by Faraci’s words and actions? Twitter user spacecrone, someone who has personal experience with Faraci, has made her feelings clear. Check out this thread. It’s essential reading. Some highlights:
the film industry won't be "good for women" until y'all make some compassionate boundaries about what kinds of behavior is acceptable
i get it. i totally get loving your friend and feeling at a loss that he is freaking out so much that his "career is ruined.
But Here'S The Thing: He Hurts People
and when you put me, and everyone else, in the position to have to care more about devin's wellbeing than our own or the people he's hurt,
You Are Contributing To The Atmosphere That Results In Women Not Coming Forward About These Things
When League said that “there’s some discomfort with the idea that Devin is once again employed by the Alamo Drafthouse
,” all he really did was minimize the damage. Faraci’s employment sends such a disappointing, disturbing message to the film community. You can treat women this way and get away with it.
The second recent example focuses on the Indie La film venue Cinefamily which made news last month when an anonymous email was sent to many members of the organization as well as other members of the film community. As Variety summarized, the message cited “a 2014 harassment case against Cinefamily co-founder and executive director Hadrian Belove
that ended in a settlement, as well as accusing Shadie Elnashai
, vice president of the board of directors, of ‘raping multiple women.’” Belove and Elnashai resigned shortly after.
Cinefamily released a statement addressing the situation and revealing that they would “temporarily suspend” all activities to “allow for the investigation and necessary restructure of management and the board.”
“Recently, claims were made alleging improper behavior by one of more members of the organization,” the release read. “The Board of Directors of The Cinefamily has no tolerance for any form of behavior that does not conform to the high standards demanded by our members and staff and that of common human decency.”
Now we have more details about exactly what went down.
Yesterday La Weekly published an all-too-familiar account of what happened at Cinefamily — and how little was done about it. In August of 2016, former employee William Morris “was walking from the theater’s back patio to its front door when he claims to have seen Shadie Elnashai
, then vice president of Cinefamily’s board, drunkenly wrap his arms around a female employee who was working the concession stand. Morris says he watched Elnashai ‘putting his hands on this person and then putting his hands off, taking a step back, and then laughing and doing it again’ — even after she told him to stop.”
And that wasn’t the first time Morris witnessed Elnashai behaving this way. He saw him “touch a young female employee in a way that seemed inappropriate” 10 months prior, in October 2015. He observed “Elnashai drunkenly wrap his arms around an employee, Melanie Ghaffari, during a Cinefamily Halloween party
that was open to the public.” “He put his hands on this person’s waist and then they pushed him away,” Morris recalled. “Then he came up again and slid his hands a little bit further up and then [they] pushed him away.”
“Morris is not the only employee to claim that women were treated inappropriately at Cinefamily, but he is one of the few who complained to management in writing,” La Weekly writes. “On Sept. 5, 2016, less than a month after he witnessed the second incident, Morris sent a complaint to Cinefamily’s executive managing director, Trevor Jones
, alleging that employees had been inappropriately touched and describing the work environment as a ‘thriving rape culture.’”
Cinefamily’s founder, Belove, likely had more than a little to do with fostering this environment. “According to former volunteer coordinator Jenny Ryan
, Belove told her she ‘needed to be hiring cute young girls that he would want to fuck’ and that he ‘would grumble if I hired someone that he found unattractive,’” La Weekly writes. “Former director of operations Nedjelko Spaich says Belove instructed him to fire employees who were not attractive enough. Longtime volunteer Karina Chacham
claims to have witnessed Belove receiving oral sex from a Cinefamily volunteer. Former director of development Tina Poppy sued Belove and Cinefamily in 2014 for gender discrimination, sexual harassment, assault, and battery, among other complaints. And two former employees — Hayley Pogue
and Mario Muñoz
— claim they too were physically assaulted by Belove.”
The Faraci and Cinefamily situations are particularly visible blights on the film community, but they are not the only ones. Sometimes misogyny is super explicit and visible, but oftentimes bro culture is insidious. And some of the men who perpetuate it pretend to be progressive and get away with treating women unacceptably. If you needed a brutal, disheartening reminder of this fact, this week served to do just that. The upside is that there are men like William Morris standing up for women and the clear public outcry is making it impossible for Cinefamily and Alamo Drafthouse
to sweep these scandals under the rug. There are many people talking and watching that we won’t be silenced.
Horrible Misogyny in the Film World Is Surfacing, But Are We Really Surprised? was originally published in Women and Hollywood on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.