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Cinema Themyscira

You think you know people. Following the revelation that film mogul Harvey Weinstein raped, assaulted, harassed and monitored at least 80 women (harassment which included Weinstein retaining former Mossad-agents to pursue vendettas against his victims, agents who were introduced to Weinstein by former Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak), one of the most cogent interventions from a movie industry figure came from… Judd Apatow.

“There’s a big difference between hearing something at a party about people you’ve never met or don’t really know, and having direct knowledge of crime” he told Deadline, making points he echoed in the podcast of former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara.

“There are a lot of people who have direct knowledge of crime. There are people writing cheques to women. There are lawyers and business managers and agents and managers and studio people who knew what’s happening.”

“[…] Daryl Hannah said she called up everybody on Kill Bill and said, “I’ve had to put the dresser up against my door to keep Harvey Weinstein from pushing it in, from coming into my room.” How come all of the people that she contacted didn’t do anything? All they did, according to her, was take her off of the rest of the press tour. Nobody said, “I’m not going to work with Harvey again.” Nobody said, “I’m going to tell somebody in a position of power, so that he can be dealt with in the manner in which he should have been.” To me, that’s one of the prime examples of what’s wrong with our industry.”

(And before we credit Apatow with super powers of empathising with people when he has no obvious self-interest, he also said this week that Lena Dunham “is the greatest person I have ever met.” Suggesting he should get out more).

The revelations about Weinstein, Spacey, Singer, et al in the film business have prompted the discussion across many cultures about male sexual violence and predatory behaviour that was long overdue. Yet despite this planetary Damascene moment, not only is R Kelly still working in the music industry, not only has serial child abuser Ray Moore not been dropped as a Republican candidate in Alabama, and not only have the UK Parliament and Labour party failed to take any action towards removing Keith Vaz; no celebrity or law-maker has been arrested yet either, anywhere, in this current round of busted cover-ups.

The institutional lethargy in the English-speaking world in failing to prosecute criminality – behaviour which in any other tier of society would end careers – sends a clear message to victims. The IICSA, which appointed the first of its chairs back in July 2014, has held one hearing, about Lord Janner – alleged to have committed his crimes within Westminster, the building where laws are made – in July 2016, two years after the inquiry was set up. There’s no news on when more hearings about Janner are scheduled.

That victims may now feel safer in speaking out is a watershed moment in culture, but changes to institutions will happen when it costs them money. It’s a peculiar coincidence of history that the film industry is concentrated in California, where civil litigation offers more chance of a modicum of justice for victims than the Law does in, say, Italy, whose own geriatric orange fascist coup-plotting creep is set for a political come back.

Cinefamily has closed for good, most likely because the owners couldn’t or wouldn’t bear the cost of future law-suits. When the balance of risk of exposure of abuses outweighs the costs associated with NDAs and settlements, lawyers, agents and managers will suddenly discover their spines. That this balance of risk is shifting is due to the fact that victims are no longer scared. Instead, criminal abusers should be scared.

While there’s a long history of women-run film spaces and festivals and itinerant exhibition, the clear case now is for permanent, wholly women-run and programmed film institutions. The history of these spaces world-wide over a century or more of cinema hasn’t been given the attention or treated with anything like the seriousness which it deserves. The time for this to change is now.

This is important not only for the diversity and future of live film exhibition – the only premium film-going product that the industry can make significant returns on – but for the art form of cinema.

As is being widely commented on today, in 75 years of the Golden Globes only seven women have been nominated in the Best Director category. As with the Oscars Being So White, this means fewer good and interesting movies.

A tertiary benefit of the end of toxic masculinity would be that men also no longer have to suffer its consequences. A mindlessly acquisitive culture that tolerates bullying, aggression and rampant sexism and enshrines competition in all walks of life not only disempowers women, to a lesser extent it disempowers men as well.

When greed in the movie industry trumped imagination and cinema failed to keep up with colour television, it produced a glut of shitty John Wayne Westerns and – eventually – President Ronald Reagan (who, despite taking the world to the brink of nuclear annihilation, now seems likeable and principled compared with the current incumbent of the Whitehouse). More recently, when the movie industry turned itself into venture capital funded toy adverts aimed at the Chinese market, it failed to keep up with social media and reality TV – forms of communication more squalid than racist fantasies about genocide in the Old West, one product of which being the Trump Presidency – and the film industry, like the world, ended up in the mess it’s in now.

  • Read part three of this article ‘A brief history of film spaces run by women’