Film body slow to call cut on We­in­stein

The Weekend Australian - - THE NATION - ROSE­MARY NEILL

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

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