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Film Academy Won’t Be ‘Inquisitorial Court,’ Oscars President Says

The president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, John Bailey, sent a letter today to members of the organization titled “In the Matter of H. Weinstein…and Beyond,” condemning Harvey Weinstein’s behavior and urging the need for a safer space for women in the film industry. However, he also stressed that “The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court.”

Bailey began the letter with a lengthy reference to Carl Dreyer’s classic 1928 film “The Passion of Joan of Arc,” stressing the power of Maria Falconetti’s performance as the Maid of Orleans. He emphasized that beyond its status as a visual landmark of the silent movie era, the film, which he describes as “a deeply disturbing portrait of a young woman’s persecution in the face of the male judges and priests of the ruling order,” and the wrenching memory of Falconetti’s career trajectory, have haunted him since Saturday, when the Academy’s Board of Governors decided to expel the power producer from its membership.

“Recent public testimonies by some of filmdom’s most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force is, clearly, a turning point in the film industry — and hopefully in our country, where what happens in the world of movies becomes a marker of societal Zeitgeist,” Bailey said. “Their decision to stand up against a powerful, abusive male not only parallels the cinema courage of Falconetti’s Joan, but gives all women courage to speak up.”

He said changes must be made to ensure that women are respected as artists and not forced into a “sad arc” like that of Falconetti’s career (she allegedly died from a crash diet in 1946). On Saturday, the Academy released a statement: “We [have voted to expel Weinstein] not simply to separate ourselves from someone who does not merit the respect of his colleagues, but also to send a message that the era of willful ignorance and shameful complicity in sexually predatory behavior and workplace harassment in our industry is over,” it read. Bailey added in today’s letter to the membership, “It is up to all of us Academy members to more clearly define for ourselves the parameters of proper conduct, of sexual equality, and respect for our fellow artists throughout our industry.”

“The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court,” he continued, “but we can be part of a larger initiative to define standards of behavior, and to support the vulnerable women and men who may be at personal and career risk because of violations of ethical standards by their peers.”

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