Richard Raddon resigns post

L.A. fest faces questions about Prop. 8

NEW YORK -- In the wake of harsh industry criticism over his $1,500 donation in support of Proposition 8, the California initiative that banned same-sex marriage, Richard Raddon has resigned as director of the Los Angeles Film Festival. He had held the post at the fest, run by Film Independent, since 2000.

"I have always held the belief that all people, no matter race, religion or sexual orientation, are entitled to equal rights. As many know, I consider myself a devout and faithful Mormon," said Raddon, whose donation became public after gay-rights supporters began scanning lists of political donors. Members of the Mormon Church contributed more than $20 million toward the "Yes on 8" campaign that helped the proposition pass in a 52%-48% vote this month.

"I prefer to keep the details around my contribution through my church a private matter," Raddon said. "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."

The heat surrounding Raddon's contribution has been building for several weeks. Film Independent not only has several openly gay members on its board but also supports indie filmmaking, with encouraging diversity one of its stated goals.

When word of Raddon's contribution first surfaced nearly two weeks ago, Film Independent appeared to back its festival director, saying: "As a champion of diversity, Film Independent is dedicated to supporting the civil rights of all individuals. At the same time, our organization does not police the personal, religious and political choices of any employee, member or filmmaker." Several outlets reported at the time that Raddon had offered his resignation but the group had declined to accept it.

But Film Independent general counsel Michael Donaldson said Tuesday that Raddon didn't formally offer to resign until Monday. Donaldson explained that "he was going through a process" involving general discussions and talking to many of the Film Independent board members.

On Monday afternoon, two emotional conference calls were held among the board members, who debated the issues involved.

"Generally we've been very happy with Rich, and most if not all of us have been unhappy with Prop 8," said board member and film director Rodrigo Garcia. "Most have felt that we don't fire people."

Even within the organization, there were questions about whether Raddon had offered an earlier resignation and, if so, why it had not been accepted.

"Some of us were consulted and some weren't," said one board member who spoke on condition of anonymity. "There was some question as to why (the resignation) wasn't accepted before."

Added Garcia: "The protests have kept growing. I've also heard rumblings that a lot of our members were unhappy."

The widespread impression that Film Independent had decided that Raddon should stay led to "a very rough week and a half," the board member said. "There have been a lot of calls and e-mails, and everyone is extremely opinionated."

Donaldson said that Film Independent executive director Dawn Hudson tried to reach out to all board members during the past few weeks. Hudson and Raddon did not respond to requests for comment.

On Tuesday, the Film Independent board issued a statement, saying that "with great reluctance" it accepted Raddon's resignation.

"Rich's service to the independent film community and to Film Independent has been nothing less than extraordinary," the statement read. "He has always shown complete commitment to our core principles of equality and diversity during his long tenure."

No immediate replacement was named.

"I'll miss Rich, who was a great film festival director," said Roadside Attractions co-president Howard Cohen, a member of the LAFF advisory board. "On the other hand, the wife of (Mormon church founder Brigham Young's descendant) Steve Young came out publicly against Prop 8. Standing behind the church holds no sway with me."

The controversy at LAFF comes amid a rising call in some quarters for boycotts of individuals and businesses that supported the "Yes on 8" campaign. Some activists have called for a boycott of the Sundance Film Festival because it is located in the Mormon church's home state of Utah -- or at least a selective boycott of the Holiday Village Cinemas, used by Sundance, because the theater is owned by the Cinemark chain, whose CEO Alan Stock contributed to the campaign against same-sex marriage.

No one had called for a boycott of LAFF or Film Independent's Spirit Awards, though some board members worried about that possibility.
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