James Toback Accusers Call Out Festival, Distributor for Screening His Latest Film

Courtesy of Venice Film Festival
'The Private Life of a Modern Woman' (2017)

"THIS is #rapeculture in the flesh," one accuser wrote of the Oldenberg Film Festival's decision to screen the picture after nearly 400 allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against the director.

One year after its Venice premiere in September 2017, which was shortly before director James Toback was accused by more than 395 women of sexual harassment and assault, Germany's quirky Oldenburg Film Fest is giving his most recent film a German premiere.

That pic — The Private Life of a Modern Woman, a short character study starring Sienna Miller and Alec Baldwin — is being shown on Saturday. Timed to the screening, Toback accusers are calling out both Oldenburg and distributor Paul Thiltges on Twitter for giving a platform to an alleged predator.

"THIS is #rapeculture in the flesh. Placing a woman #siennaMiller in every scene, does not make it okay to film a movie by known #Predator #JamesToback. The over 400 women stand together in opposition of this film and ANY film made by or using a #sexualPredator," said actress and accuser Chantal Cousineau.

"I stand with the other 400 women and counting who have accused #JamesToback of sexual assault and/or sexual harassment in saying he should never be in a position of power again. Respect those who have been traumatized and re-traumatized," actress-producer and accuser Mary Monahan wrote.

Other women voiced their support with the women on Twitter and Facebook: "Really want to be associated supporting his films? Sick!," said musician Ryal. 

On the Oldenburg festival's Facebook page, women urged organizers to "reconsider celebrating James Toback, who, according to almost 400 women, built his career on their sexual assault and harassment."

Thiltges has responded to just one accuser, Molly Maeve Eagan, who says she was approached by Toback when she was just 15 years old. Thiltges said on Twitter, "We support Sienna Miller’s world class performance in this movie. She is in every single scene, and she is brillant. We love the movie and will continue to defend it against all odds." 

Earlier in the week, festival director Thorsten Neumann defended the decision to screen the film, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "Sienna Miller is in every scene and nearly every frame of Modern Woman." He added, "The entire film is Sienna's performance, and she is masterful. For her work to go unseen would only add another female victim and artist to an imbalanced system that we're all trying to equalize."

Miller herself did not show up to the premiere in Venice last year, where it premiered out of competition, and has done no publicity to promote the movie. On whether she supports the film screening in Germany and further sales for it to have a wider audience, a representative for Miller told THR, "No comment."

In its description of the pic, Oldenburg says, "This intimate thriller is only 71 minutes long, but it tells us everything about life and this world." Toback's bio, meanwhile, states, "His latest work is masterful," and makes no reference to the allegations against him. 

In his Los Angeles Times exposé of allegations against Toback, published in October, reporter Glenn Whipp detailed accusations of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Stories were often similar, with the director approaching women to offer a role in a new film, and proceeding to ask them "humiliating personal questions" before assaulting them. Actresses including Selma Blair, Julianne Moore and Rachel McAdams all came forward with their own stories about the director. 

The few critics who wrote about Private Life of a Modern Woman in Venice mainly panned the picture. The Telegraph's critic Robbie Collins wrote in his review of the film, which he called a "pompous chore," that Toback, in character, "goes on to sustainedly probe [Sienna Miller's character] Vera about her sex life," not unlike what his accusers described, "in an exchange so excruciating I almost bit through my fist."

Venice fest director Alberto Barbera has also spoken out in support of including the film in its program, saying that justice would decide Toback's fate, without commenting on the limited one-year statute of limitations for sexual battery. In Los Angeles, five cases of sexual abuse against the director have been dropped for being outside of the statute of limitations. 

Toback was previously honored by the Oldenburg Film Festival in 2008, when the event showed a retrospective of his films.