An Open Letter to the Film Lovers of Los Angeles: Cinefamily and the Chance for Change
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Over the past month, the “Rise and Fall of Cinefamily," with its allegations of sexual assault and a toxic work culture, has been a deeply troubling saga for those of us in the Los Angeles film community to observe. The recent extremely well-written LA Weekly piece of that name has prompted us to write this open letter and add a voice to the conversation. It is a voice which we haven’t yet heard, addressing the second part of the headline—“Can It Be Saved?”
An important preface: We want to be clear on our stand on the allegations. We believe the victims. If you haven’t read Amber Tamblyn’s amazing New York Times op-ed on that subject, it's perfect, it leaves nothing further to be said. We are at a time in history where women are refusing to remain silent any longer about the discrimination and harassment we suffer every day, and that is a huge step forward and took a lot of bravery from all concerned.
As we can see from recent events with the Alamo Drafthouse, the issue of unsafe cultures for women in repertory cinema exhibition is much bigger than Cinefamily. Calling it out wherever it exists sends a strong message that this type of behavior is no longer tolerated in our community. It should be heard loud and clear, by everyone in power, and remembered when they are thinking about what kind of organizational cultures they are creating in their movie theaters or anywhere else. Don’t make it one where women, LGBTQ, and people of color aren’t safe, valued and respected. You will not get away with it any longer.
That being said, as we look to the future, it prompts the question—What happens to Cinefamily now? Namely—we are hearing that behind the scenes, it’s not a discussion about what culture a reopened theater should have. Rather, Cinefamily is in mortal danger, with the most likely scenario being it doesn’t come back at all. Partially because it’s not clear whether there would be an audience to come back to.
What we haven’t yet heard mentioned as part of this ongoing dialogue is: If all the things that were good about Cinefamily are lost to the L.A. community as a result of this situation, the misogynists who were forced out still win in the end. Because we, the community, are losing something we liked as a result of what they did.
We’ll just take a moment to list some of our favorite things about Cinefamily for the past 10 years:
- First and foremost, the community, which was the closest to a 50/50 gender ratio of any repertory theater in town.
- That it provided a place for non-film-historian-type people like comedians, artists and musicians to do shows involving film and pop-culture with a lot of freedom and creativity.
- That its approach mixing the highbrow and the lowbrow provided a powerfully juxtaposed mental space to think about genre things critically, and make intellectual things viscerally enjoyable and get more people interested in them.
- And that, whatever was going on backstage, the actual movies shown were profusely diverse and didn’t exclude female, LGBTQ or POC voices at all.
If those things disappear because of negative influences, the punishment for the actions of the few is going to be executed on the innocent many. In our opinion—That’s unfair.
Even more powerfully—if Cinefamily DID somehow manage to come back with the above strengths, and with a newly healthy culture for the people who work and watch movies there—It would actually be a huge “in your face” to all of the misogyny in repertory movie-going nationwide.
If Cinefamily just gets destroyed and not rebuilt, while yes, it sends a great message that we don’t tolerate misogyny, it’s not as powerful a message as rebuilding it into what we do want to see would be. And that is not going to happen without the will of the public demanding its survival.
We've created this open letter to find out if that will is indeed there. If it is, we believe all things are possible. Your signature, or lack thereof, is your power to affect how this story will end: in destruction, or in redemption.
Debbie Jhoon, Tina Huang, and Karla Mosley, 1:1 Productions
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