“So I don’t know about all of you, but I’m having a Howard Beale moment,” said Tribeca Enterprises’ Jane Rosenthal to the women in film who gathered at Locanda Verde on Tuesday for the third annual Tribeca Chanel Through Her Lens Women’s Filmmaker Program lunch. “Like the character Peter Finch plays in ‘Network,’ I’m mad as hell.”
And, as an increasing number of women come forward with stories of sexual assault and misconduct by Harvey Weinstein and other males in the industry, Rosenthal isn’t alone in her anger.
“I was surprised and not as surprised,” Elizabeth Olsen, who’s volunteered at the Rape Treatment Center, told Variety, “because I’m around women and children who’ve been sexually assaulted every week. I think we have a really insane epidemic, and it’s amazing to hear women who feel comfortable or safe enough to speak out.” She hopes it has a “ripple effect:” “It’s not just about the film industry; it’s not about a casting couch. It’s about women being too scared to speak up for how they’re treated and the taboo of talking about it, and about trying to change that.”
Olsen stars in “Wind River,” The Weinstein Company’s sole contender in this year’s Oscar race — though she hopes his stigma doesn’t deter audiences. “To be able to make a movie about two subjects that you don’t really get to hear that often — sexual assault and reservation life — I feel proud to be a part of that movie,” Olsen said. “And I hope people continue to see it, and I hope Weinstein’s name is not an attachment or a comment on our film.”
Rosenthal was also surprised when the Weinstein news broke. “It was surprising to me to hear the number of stories… it was quite shocking,” she told Variety. “And I think even more so because The Weinstein Company is a neighbor in the building, and you sometimes just don’t know who the predator is next door. And that’s heartbreaking. And it’s heartbreaking that it went on for so long and more people couldn’t speak up.”
But Rosenthal was speaking up now, taking the floor and addressing a Chanel-clad assembly of female actors, writers, directors, and producers, including: Rachel Weisz, Dakota Fanning, Cynthia Nixon, Olivia Wilde, Kyra Sedgwick, Ilene Chaiken, Christina Ricci, Natasha Lyonne, Adepero Oduye, Rebecca Hall, Zosia Mamet, Jill Kargman, Mira Nair, Amma Asante, Donna Gigliotti, and Tribeca Enterprises’ Paula Weinstein (no relation).
“A year ago, we sat in this room filled with optimism because our country was about to elect a strong woman to be our president,” Rosenthal said. “The deal was sealed a few days earlier when her opposing candidate was all over the airwaves bragging about committing sexual assault, and guess what? He’s not in jail; he’s in the White House… that is, when he’s not playing on one of his golf courses.”
“Look at the other powerful predators,” she continued. “Clarence Thomas, he’s on the Supreme Court. Bill O’Reilly’s network paid him out millions to settle multiple claims, and now he’s got a new digital show. Bill Cosby is laughing off his 20-some rapes. Roger Ailes cost his network multi-billions, plus his own $40 million settlement, before having the courtesy of dying and saving us from watching him start a new media empire. Harvey Weinstein says he’s suing The New York Times for exposing his own reign of terror. That Anthony Weiner is actually going to prison seems almost quaint.”
“I applaud and stand with all of the courageous women who have come forward with their personal stories of sexual harassment and bullying over the past few weeks,” she said. “These monsters, I’ll name them again: Trump, O’Reilly, Cosby, Weiner, Ailes, Weinstein, and their like, aren’t going to change their world through conversation. We have to change the world around them.”
“Women must come forward,” she urged. “We must encourage and support each other. We must understand that an assault on one of us is an assault on all of us. We must demand justice.”
Rosenthal went on to note that, at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, more than one third of the films were directed by women, and at the Tribeca Film Institute, they supported 55 projects by women whose stories needed to be told. “We must do better, though,” she said, and implored female producers and directors to hire more women on their projects.
“When you hit success, when you take another step forward,” she said, “make sure you pull another woman up with you.”
And with that, Weinstein took the stage to honor the five rising female filmmakers chosen to receive funding, training, and perhaps most valuable of all, mentorship.