(Image via Drafthouse.com)
Other than a sharing an article or two on my Facebook feed, and a few tweets that I’ve liked or retweeted on Twitter, I’ve stayed relatively quiet regarding the controversy regarding the Alamo Drafthouse’s decision to rehire Devin Faraci. For those who don’t know, Faraci was the longtime film critic/editor-in-chief for Birth.Movies.Death, a film blog/website that is owned and operated by the Drafthouse. After allegations of sexual assault were brought up against Faraci, he resigned immediately, and Drafthouse CEO Tim League was quick to accept that resignation. A couple of weeks ago, It was revealed by Mr. League that he had quietly rehired Faraci to write blurbs for films that are on the slate for Fantastic Fest, their genre-oriented film festival that is going on right now here in Austin as I write this to you.
A friend of mine had written me asking what I had thought on the situation, and we were both in agreement in that it was a terrible idea by League to let Faraci back. It doesn’t matter if Faraci had learned his lesson and gotten the help that he needed in order to better himself (Faraci has said that the instances of sexual assault were alcohol-fueled, and he has become sober ever since the allegations were brought to light), Faraci sexually assaulted women in his past, and there are consequences to those actions. There are many talented film writers that live in Austin or write online, so the fact that League hired Faraci to write those blurbs and not anyone else who could need the cash is still confusing to me. I was about to write about all of this, but right around the time that I had started to write down words on this issue, news broke that Faraci was no longer an employee of the Drafthouse, and wouldn’t be ever again. Tim League made a mistake, and I’m happy that he corrected that mistake.
I heard a few days ago that sexual assault allegations are now surrounding another online film critic, one that was a pioneer for this industry/community. Harry Knowles, the Austin-based film critic and founder of Ain’t it Cool News, has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women. One woman gave an interview to IndieWire over the weekend (you can read that interview here), and other women have come forward with their stories of Harry harassing or assaulting them sexually. Harry Knowles is fervently denying it all, but he chose to not go to Fantastic Fest this year (and dropped out of being a sponsor, which Ain’t it Cool News has been apart of since the festival’s inception in 2005) and his longtime partnership with the Drafthouse is now in question (Since I’ve written this and edited this piece for grammar, Tim League has announced that they are no longer associated with Knowles).
I don’t know Harry Knowles personally, but we’ve interacted together in the past, albeit briefly. I’ve seen him around at SXSW every year that I’ve attended, and we’ve had a conversation or two in passing (I remember talking with him briefly about The Grand Budapest Hotel right after that SXSW screening in 2014). As I mentioned in the beginning of the last paragraph, Harry was a pioneer in the online film blogger world, and it could be argued that he virtually created this platform back in the ’90s. Instead of Siskel and Ebert, people looked to people like Knowles and sites like his for news and reviews on upcoming films. I’m a very tiny spec in this online film world, but I probably wouldn’t have been able to start this website without a Harry Knowles having been there in the beginning to tell us how to do a film website like his.
The allegations made against both Faraci and Harry have made me very upset and angry, and I’ve decided that I need to speak on the topic. To hear that this had been going on for so many years is so deeply upsetting and troubling, and that nobody bothered to do anything when one of Harry’s accusers spoke up in private to co-workers and confidants about the issue is unforgivable. The Cinefamily controversy that erupted over the summer, in which allegations of rampant sexual abuse by the owners of that theater resulted in their resignation and the suspension of all future activities with the theater, was extremely upsetting to hear (especially given their deep history in the film community out there in LA), and it was a wake-up call for this industry. What’s going on now with the Drafthouse isn’t as widespread as what happened with Cinefamily, but its by no means an excuse for the actions of Faraci and Harry Knowles. As longtime readers of both of their work as critics throughout the years, I’m truly angry and disgusted by their actions, and I don’t want to see the two of them involved in any future Austin film events (which as I said in the last paragraph looks very likely, given League’s recent statement).
I didn’t go to Fantastic Fest this year, but my decision to not go had nothing to do with the recent headlines. I had already committed to going another festival/event that weekend months in advance, so I couldn’t make Fantastic Fest this year. I’ve always wanted to go to the fest, and if my scheduling works out next year I’d love to go. The programming of this year’s festival looks really fantastic, and I’m incredibly jealous of everyone that’s attending this year. I’m incredibly disappointed in the actions by Mr. League regarding the Faraci debacle, but I’m happy that he revoked that statement and decided to not participate in this year’s Fantastic Fest, as it was the right thing. His appearance would’ve been a major distraction from the purpose of that fest, which is to show edgy and out-there genre films. The attendees of Fantastic Fest are probably going to the fest this year to escape not only the craziness of the world in terms of what Trump has said or done, but also now to escape the craziness of the past few weeks in this community. That’s why we go to the movies, to escape this badshit crazy world and enter a world that filmmakers have spent months or years trying to create, whether it be a good or bad one. That’s why I love going to the movies, and I’ll always love going to the movies.
And I’m going to continue going to the Alamo Drafthouse. No other theater chain in the country champions film and loves film the way the Alamo Drafthouse does, and their strict no-talking no-texting policy is a great assurance for this anal, OCD film writer. I didn’t want to write this piece, but I had to. The fact that we have a sexual predator as our President doesn’t excuse other sexual predators. We must also make sure that going to the movies is a safe and fun experience for all, and that no woman (or anyone) should be afraid to go because of one’s actions or the power of that one person. It baffles me that there use to be a time when we would laugh and shame victims of sexual assault/harassment, but we now live in an era where women don’t have to be afraid to speak up about stuff like this, and know that sexual predators aren’t welcome in this community, not now and not ever.
That’s all I have to say on this subject.