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Fantastic Fest Taps New Board of Directors Following Sexual Assault Controversies

Two months after being rocked by sexual assault controversies, Fantastic Fest has selected Kristen Bell (chair), Elijah Wood, Kier-la Janisse, Peter Kuplowsky, and Suki-Rose Simakis as board members, it announced Thursday.

“The board of directors’ goal is to further enhance and refine the experience of the festival and to provide the best, most open and inclusive environment for our family of film-loving fanatics,” the board said. “The first meeting is under our belts and we will be in touch soon with some of the steps the festival will be taking in response to the survey and festival feedback we have received as we plan out the 2018 edition.”

“As part of our first year’s strategic plan we will be working together to identify additional board members to diversify and bolster the board even further to meet the goals of our growth mission,” the board also said. “We appreciate your patience as we sift through all the comments and work within this new infrastructure.”

The Austin-based festival, operated by Alamo Drafthouse, was hit by negative publicity in the days prior to its Sept. 21 start after it was revealed that Devin Faraci had been rehired by the company — despite having stepped down last year as editor-in-chief of the Drafthouse’s Birth.Movies.Death website following sexual assault allegations. Faraci stepped down for a second time on Sept. 13.

Two days later, Fox Searchlight withdrew “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” from the Fantastic Fest lineup, citing “recent events” without elaborating. Ain’t It Cool News editor and festival co-founder Harry Knowles subsequently pulled out of the festival, a step that was followed by multiple allegations of sexual assault and harassment against Knowles. The blogger then announced a leave of absence from AICN on Sept. 26.

Bell is not related to the actress of the same name. She issued a statement Thursday asserting that she is seeking a “more inclusive” festival but did not mention the sexual assault controversies. She has been a part of the Alamo Drafthouse team since 2003 and Fantastic Fest since its inception in 2005. She has been director of the festival since 2007 and currently has the titles of senior project manager and executive director.

“Developing a Board of Directors for Fantastic Fest has been a longtime goal of mine and I’m incredibly excited to see it realized,” she said. “Moreover, I am honored and humbled to have such an esteemed and accomplished group of folks join me in embracing this opportunity to grow and change the festival with their unique perspectives, ideas and experiences. Our shared passion for incredible genre cinema and our collective dedication to building an even more awesome, more inclusive Fantastic Fest will lead the way as we set our sights on the future.”

CORRECTION: This story previously had a photo of the incorrect Kristen Bell

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