Film Academy Won't Be "Inquisitorial Court," But Will Support the "Vulnerable," Says President

John Bailey, who was elected to his post in August, made an extended reference to the 1928 film 'The Passion of Joan of Arc' in an email to his 8,427 members.
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Harvey Weinstein

"The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court," recently elected Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences president John Bailey said in an email sent to members Tuesday, three days after his organization's board of governors expelled Harvey Weinstein in the wake of widespread allegations of sexual harassment, assault and rape. "But we can be a 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."

Making an extended reference to the 1928 film The Passion of Joan of Arc, Bailey said he has been "haunted" by that film's portrait of a woman made to suffer for refusing to recant her beliefs. He said that "recent public testimonies by some of filmdom's most recognized women regarding sexual intimidation, predation, and physical force," in his view, "not only parallels the cinema courage of Falconetti's Joan but gives all women courage to speak up."

Bailey closed by saying, "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 industry."

According to the board's statement on Saturday, it will soon be devising parameters of its own — akin to a code of conduct for all 8,427 Academy members — to regulate behavior moving forward, although it is unclear if the Academy also plans to deal with past misconduct by members, such as Roman Polanski and Bill Cosby.

Below is the full text of Bailey's email.

* * *

In the Matter of H. Weinstein... and Beyond

Dear Fellow Academy Members,

Danish director Carl Dreyer's 1928 film "The Passion of Joan of Arc" is not only one of the visual landmarks of the silent era, but is a deeply disturbing portrait of a young woman's persecution in the face of the male judges and priests of the ruling order. The actress Maria Falconetti gave one of the most profoundly affecting performances in the history of cinema as the Maid of Orleans.

Since the decision of the Academy's Board of Governors on Saturday October 14 to expel producer Harvey Weinstein from its membership, I have been haunted not only by the recurring image of Falconetti and the sad arc of her career (dying in Argentina in 1946, reputedly from a crash diet) but of Joan's refusal to submit to an auto de fe recantation of her beliefs.

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. 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.

After Saturday's Board of Governors meeting, the Academy issued a passionately worded statement, expressing not only our concern about harassment in the film industry, but our intention to be a strong voice in changing the culture of sexual exploitation in the movie business, already common well before the founding of the Academy 90 years ago. 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 industry. The Academy cannot, and will not, be an inquisitorial court, but we can be a 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.

Yours,

John

Academy President

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