Film body slow to call cut on Weinstein
The body that runs Australia’s top screen awards has been accused of an “incredibly disappointing’’ lack of leadership, following its failure to officially revoke a historic award it bestowed on disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
This criticism comes as a former chief executive of the Australian Film Institute claimed sexual harassment and assault were “defining features’’ of film industries here and overseas.
In late 2013, the Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts (AACTA) announced Weinstein — who in recent weeks been accused of harassing or sexually assaulting dozens of women — as its inaugural international fellowship recipient.
Organisations including Harvard University, the US Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and the British Film Institute have expelled Weinstein or publicly rescinded awards they gave him, since the scandal broke. US and British police are investigating the producer, though the former Hollywood heavyweight denies having had non-consensual sex with anyone.
After being told of growing criticism of the Weinstein fellowship, late yesterday AACTA released a statement claiming it had “ceased to exist’’, because Weinstein had cancelled a planned trip to Australia to collect his award. “Harvey Weinstein does not hold the inaugural AACTA international fellowship,’’ a spokeswoman for AACTA said.
However, the award body’s glossy publication, 3rd AACTA Awards — Year in Review, which is available online, contradicts this claim. In it, Weinstein thanks AACTA “for honouring me as their inaugural international fellowship recipient”, while AACTA president Geoffrey Rush congratulates the producer on his fellowship, calling him “a fearless and inspired champion of screen story’’.
Before his downfall, the cofounder of Miramax Films and the Weinstein Company championed Australian actors and distributed Australian-made films including the Academy Awardwinning The King’s Speech and The Sapphires.
Director of women’s film festival For Films Sake, Sophie Mathisen, said it was “incredibly disappointing’’ AACTA had not followed the lead of other prestigious organisations and officially withdrawn Weinstein’s fellowship. “Silence is not a strategy, in this case. It shows they are not providing strong leadership,’’ she said.
A former president of WIFT (Women in Film and Television), Ms Mathisen said the fellowship “valorises someone and what they stand for’’. She described yesterday’s statement that the fellowship had ceased to exist as “too convenient’’.
Meanwhile, when asked if there was a culture of silence around sexual harassment in the local arts and entertainment industries, former Australian Film Institute CEO Deb Verhoeven told The Weekend Australian: “Sexual harassment and assault are defining features of all film industries around the world and Australia is no exception.’’
She claimed “many’’ big names in the Australian film and arts sector had engaged in harassment — including sexual crimes — but not faced any consequences.
“Sexual discriminations and crimes in the Australian film industry are widely discussed by those who are harmed by them (mostly women), but their experiences are seldom taken seriously,’’ she said.
Now an academic at University of Technology Sydney, Ms Verhoeven said, “what is really needed is fundamental industrial change that sees women and minorities taking their deserved part in the industry’’.
The Australian Directors Guild urged AACTA to follow the example of the American Academy.
An AACTA spokeswoman said the allegations against Weinstein were “incredibly disturbing’’, while Rush said: “Many companies have, recently, rightfully condemned many examples of inappropriate behaviour and serious misconduct in the workplace. According to our constitution and by-laws, AACTA is currently addressing this grave situation with concern.’’
‘Sexual harassment and assault are defining features of all film industries around the world’ DEB VERHOEVEN FORMER AFI CHIEF EXECUTIVE
Weinstein thanks AACTA for tthe honour in the Year in Review