L.A. Film Festival’s Raddon resigns

Director, org faced growing protests

Under mounting pressure, Los Angeles Film Festival director Richard Raddon has ankled his post.

Raddon and Film Independent (FIND), the festival’s parent org, have faced a barrage of protests over Raddon’s contribution to the successful Yes on Prop. 8 campaign that banned same-sex marriage in California.

After bloggers published his name, culled from public records of donors, Raddon tendered his first resignation on Nov. 13 to Film Independent’s board of directors. It was not accepted, and Film Independent released a statement saying, “Our organization does not police the personal, religious or political choices of any employee, member or filmmaker.”

Yet Internet message boards and other published reports kept the issue at the center of a growing protest movement that has targeted “Yes on 8” donors including the Mormon Church and Cinemark Theaters, whose CEO was a contributor.

On Monday, Raddon submitted a second resignation. Those close to the org described Monday’s conference call with the board of directors as emotional. While Raddon’s contribution had caused some internal angst, he was well liked within the org.

On Tuesday, Film Independent issued a statement saying, “With great reluctance, Film Independent has accepted Richard Raddon’s resignation. Rich’s service to the independent film community and to Film Independent has been nothing less than extraordinary. He has always shown complete commitment to our core principles of equality and diversity during his long tenure.”

Raddon, a devout Mormon who took the reins of the fest in 2000, said: “I have always held the belief that all people, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation, are entitled to equal rights. I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter. But I am profoundly sorry for the negative attention that my actions have drawn to Film Independent and for the hurt and pain that is being experienced in the GLBT community.”

Film Independent has not yet picked a replacement for Raddon.

There’s been considerable debate among leaders of gay rights organizations over the nature of boycotts and protests and whether some groups are being unfairly targeted. And in the entertainment industry, it has left some filmmakers caught between their support of same-sex marriage and civil rights, on the one hand, and a desire to recognize the right to freedom of speech on the other.

Protesters picketed outside a Cinemark multiplex in Evanston, Ill., earlier this week.

At a Monday Q&A following a Variety screening of “Milk,” the story of slain gay rights activist Harvey Milk, executive producer Michael London said, “You don’t want to be squelching free speech. As much as we loathe the message that that individual put out there, he is entitled to have whatever opinions he wants. And in a larger corporate sense, Cinemark has actually been a supporter of independent cinema. ‘Brokeback Mountain’ was a movie that played in any number of Cinemark theaters. At the same time, it is an individual in a position of power at that company, so we have not wanted to censor people who are taking issue with him, but we also haven’t wanted to insist that the chain shouldn’t be showing the movie.”

“Milk” screenwriter Dustin Lance Black, who has been participating in some Proposition 8 protests, said those organizing boycotts should tread carefully. He even cited a scene in the film, where Milk organizes a boycott of Coors beer.

Black said, “When you are talking about Cinemark, I actually know some people who are high up there and are gay and lesbian and who are horrified with what happened. So it is figuring out how to target specific organizations and groups and individuals in a way that is peaceful, legal and effective, like Harvey did with the Coors beer boycott.”

(Ted Johnson contributed to this report.)