Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been following the controversy surrounding the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest after revelations about the re-hiring of ousted film critic Devin Faraci at the company. But the Drafthouse isn’t the only movie theater currently facing hard truths about sexual harassment and rape culture within its ranks. Over the past couple of months, a similar—and extremely damning—controversy has surrounded L.A.-based theater Cinefamily, once the epicenter of obsessive cinema fandom in the city and a hip hangout spot for Hollywood types like Robert Downey Jr. (Full disclosure: This writer has participated in Cinefamily events in the past, as a guest and an organizer. The last time I was there was in 2013, and I am not involved in the lawsuit.)
Today, LA Weekly ran a comprehensive article detailing the events that led to Cinefamily’s purportedly temporary shuttering last month. Allegations of sexual and physical assault, harassment, and a pervasive culture of sexism at the theater—all of it surrounding board member Shadie Elnashai and founder Hadrian Belove—first became public via an anonymous email sent to film writers and distributors last month. That email contained the testimony of then-unnamed ex-employees who had filed multiple HR complaints that were ignored, and included pages from a lawsuit filed against Belove and Cinefamily alleging gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and assault and battery, among other charges.
Jennifer Swann’s meticulously reported article names those who were willing to be named, puts the theater’s fall into a historical timeline, and breaks down the charges against Elnashai and Belove in sickening detail. It’s a sobering read, and an upsetting one. But it’s an important read for anyone invested in film culture, feminism, and/or the intersection between the two. It was sad to see Cinefamily close, but the betrayal of the employees and volunteers who devoted their lives to the theater—Swann’s article describes routine 18-hour days—by unrepentant serial abusers was too great for the theater to stay open. The culture of fear and intimidation could not continue. And it’s only by exposing such flagrant abuses of power that we can ever hope to stop them.