PERFORMATIVE ALLYSHIP

How a Sexual-Assault Accusation Against a ‘Feminist’ Film Blogger Shook Up the Indie Film World

The strange case of film blogger Devin Faraci, Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League, and several alleged victims who wanted their voices to be heard.

Eleven months ago, movie blogger Devin Faraci resigned from his post as the editor in chief of the popular film site Birth.Movies.Death. after a woman accused him of sexual assault. Now, Faraci is resigning once again following reports that the critic had been quietly rehired—unbeknownst to his alleged victims and the larger Alamo Drafthouse community.

The Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse is led by CEO Tim League, who oversees the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema chain, Drafthouse Films’ distribution company, the distribution shingle Neon, and is also the co-founder of the genre film festival Fantastic Fest. Alamo Drafthouse owns Birth.Movies.Death.

Faraci was a controversial figure long before his accuser’s allegations against him went viral. In the words of a Sept. 12 Pajiba article, “This came after years of terrible behavior wherein Faraci developed a reputation as a bully and generally unpleasant individual. The sexual assault allegation was a tipping point for an industry who had tolerated his terrible actions and words for many years.”

While Faraci’s reviews and social media posts were often those of an elusive “male ally”—he praised Wonder Woman, bemoaned the lack of female directors in the film industry, and is a self-described “feminist”—in practice, he was a prick. Though Faraci’s bad behavior wasn’t reserved for women—he infamously encouraged writers to kill themselves on Twitter—he did display a pattern of virtual and real-life misogyny. One Twitter user recently issued a “casual reminder” that “Devin Faraci and Matt Mira once sent their followers after me, a fat woman, for daring to criticize Jessica Jones,” adding, “Casual reminder Matt Mira and Devin Faraci were liking and retweeting ‘jokes’ about how my rapist must have been into bestiality to rape me.” (Mira has since apologized, and was forgiven by the woman. The tweets were deleted after the publication of this story.)

A source who requested anonymity told The Daily Beast that Faraci’s misogynistic modus operandi was well-known within the larger film community.

She told The Daily Beast that she and Faraci—both film journalists at the time—“both went to the set of [REDACTED] for our respective outlets and as usual, the studio wined and dined us.” She recalled, “Somehow, Faraci and I ended up stumbling around the last bar together, everyone was drifting back, and Faraci said we needed to go back too. He kept complimenting me, something came up about my not having a boyfriend, and he stopped me in front of the hotel and kissed me. I think he stopped and kissed me a few times. I was VERY drunk, so I can’t say it was entirely consensual. I know I wanted out of the situation… Something finally came to in my brain and I politely excused myself, pointing out he had a girlfriend and it was not something I would do.”

The woman explained that Faraci proceeded to ice her out, unfollowing her on Twitter and ignoring her in person. “While I was working for [REDACTED FILM WEBSITE],” she continued, “I quietly shared my experience with Devin with readers and fellow writers, and learned that this was not only common, but that Faraci had a long history of predatory behavior. Those stories aren’t mine to share, but they were awful, and very much echo the public allegations against him. I count myself lucky I wasn’t subjected to the more violent harassment he laid on other women.”

But Faraci’s performative online feminism reached a breaking point in October of 2016, when the film critic took to Twitter to mock Donald Trump’s abhorrent Access Hollywood tape. Faraci tweeted, “The most telling thing about the Trump tape? He wasn’t talking with his best friends. He was boasting to a TV host.” This commentary quickly backfired, with a Twitter user responding, “Quick question: do you remember grabbing me by the pussy and bragging to our friends about it, telling them to smell your fingers?” Faraci replied, “I do not remember this. I can only believe you and beg forgiveness for having been so vile.”

Caroline, who asked to be referred to by her first name, shared with The Daily Beast why she decided to tweet back at the man who allegedly assaulted her. “I had spent so long avoiding reading online film criticism or being involved in the online community surrounding movies I love because he would inevitably be involved, especially since he was considered an important voice for women in film,” she explained. “It made me angry, so I avoided it for years. And then, possibly due to the election, I felt like I couldn’t ignore it anymore. It was really very much about telling my own story and directing it to him so he knew I knew he was at best ignoring what he’d done or at worst being totally disingenuous.” Caroline added, “I thought Devin would ignore the tweet like he had ignored previous times I’d attempted to remind him of what he did to me.”

Instead, Caroline’s tweet sparked a backlash that culminated in Faraci’s resignation from Birth.Movies.Death. At the time, he posted, “This weekend allegations were made about my past behavior. Because I take these types of claims seriously I feel my only honorable course of action is to step down from my position as editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death. I will use the coming weeks and months to work on becoming a better person who is, I hope, worthy of the trust and loyalty of my friends and readers.”

Naturally, it was assumed that Faraci would be ostracized from the film community for the foreseeable future. So it came as quite a shock when readers stumbled upon his byline earlier this week in Drafthouse’s Fantastic Fest brochure. For many, Drafthouse CEO Tim League’s decision to quietly rehire Faraci was seen as a betrayal, and raised questions of how long Faraci had been working for Drafthouse under the radar. Rebecca Pahle, an editor at Film Journal, tweeted, “If Faraci has still been writing for Drafthouse all this time, that is SUCH a scummy, cynical move from them.” Caroline also voiced her outrage on social media, writing, “I was lied to and brought into what was essentially a PR scheme.”

“Mostly I think Tim really loves and cares about his friend Devin,” she continued. “And it seems like some women in film journalism do too. I get it. I totally get loving your friend and feeling at a loss that he is freaking out so much that his ‘career is ruined.’ BUT HERE’S THE THING: HE HURTS PEOPLE. And when you put me, and everyone else, in the position to have to care more about devin’s wellbeing than our own or the people he’s hurt, YOU ARE CONTRIBUTING TO THE ATMOSPHERE THAT RESULTS IN WOMEN NOT COMING FORWARD ABOUT THESE THINGS. And you can lecture me all you want about compassion or second chances and i will point you to my threads from yesterday. I want to trust what Tim has said to me which is that he is going to start thinking about his community as a whole. I am willing to make that leap but i am also PRETTY PISSED OFF about being lied to. And again: I do believe in second chances, and recuperation, and nobody is a lost cause to me HOWEVER why the lying and subterfuge about his employment? People seem to be glossing over this part pretty hard.”

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Tim League initially responded to the controversy by advocating for forgiveness and rehabilitation.

In a Facebook post on Tuesday, League wrote, in part: “Devin has spent the time since this allegation examining the choices he made that led to it. He has recognized and acknowledged his struggles with substance abuse; after stepping down, he immediately entered recovery and has been sober ever since. This is an important step in the right direction. His departure from Birth.Movies.Death meant losing his job, his livelihood, his career, and his place in the film community, but Devin has started the work to rebuild himself first with the understanding that all else is secondary. Seeing the work that Devin has been doing to acknowledge his faults, to address his addiction, and to better himself, I thought it was important to contribute to his recovery process by helping him with some means to earn a living. Once it became clear that his efforts were sincere, I offered Devin copywriting work at Alamo Drafthouse and have recently expanded that to include writing blurbs for our Fantastic Fest festival guide. He does not hold any leadership position at Alamo Drafthouse or Fantastic Fest and is not involved with Birth.Movies.Death. in any capacity. I understand there’s some discomfort with the idea that Devin is once again employed by the Alamo Drafthouse. However, I am very much an advocate for granting people second chances, and I believe that Devin deserves one.”

By Wednesday League had changed course, announcing that Faraci had “offered his resignation, and I have accepted it.” He continued, “Our company values the ability to reflect on our actions both individually and as a team. I have reflected a great deal, and I welcome the opportunity to speak with each of you, to listen and to provide the opportunity for further reflection.”

Kat Arnett is a self-described victim of Faraci’s harassment who reached out to Tim League on Oct. 11, 2016. In light of recent events, Arnett shared a screenshotted excerpt of League’s response to her on social media; it has since been widely disseminated in articles like this Hollywood Reporter piece. Arnett provided The Daily Beast with the full email chain between her and Tim League, in which she details the online harassment that led her to reach out to the Alamo Drafthouse CEO.

“My interactions with Devin were few and far between,” Arnett wrote in 2016, “Often just a comment or a joke about a new movie. Sometimes a thought about the 90s as I had run a Riot Grrrl ‘zine back then. That’s where it ended. Until it didn’t. He was coming to my city, Vancouver, on business. I think it was a set visit or junket of some kind. I can’t be sure the year, though I think 2010ish, but I do know he was doing some work for the Alamo at the time of this interaction. The only reason I know is because up until that time I still read his work, and the last links I ever clicked on were directed there.

“It started very casually, asking for a recommendation of places to eat/see,” she continued. “I gave him a few and told him to enjoy the city. He began to make comments about my body. He told me that I was just type he likes, he commented on my curves. I did not invite any of this. Nor had I ever given any indication that I was interested in him. In fact, he himself brought up the fact that he had a girlfriend. Which he then followed by telling me if we met up he wouldn’t be able to stop himself from fucking me. I ended the conversation. And I counted the days until he was out of my city worried that I might run into him. I have been on the receiving end of the kind of vitriol any 90s feminist, or woman on the internet, has faced but that was the first time I felt that I might be unsafe off-line.”

At that point, Arnett explained, “Tweets he directed at me progressed from cold, to insulting, and eventually he unfollowed me.”

Arnett explained to League how her interaction with Faraci had affected her on both a personal and a professional level, writing that, “Up until that time I had thought about transitioning from a career in photojournalism to one in film journalism… Not only did I no longer want to work in film journalism, I stopped reading it as well. The sites and podcasts I once enjoyed left a sour taste. Many of them still celebrated Devin as a ‘cool guy’; and I couldn’t help but wonder which of them knew how he behaved and just didn’t care. Or which of them might treat me in a similar manner.

“Devin Faraci did not physically assault me,” Arnett concluded in her 2016 email. “But he did say things wildly inappropriate about my body and what he wanted to do to it. He made me feel unsafe in my own city. His actions stopped me from pursuing a career path I might have been good at. And worst of all he took the innocence and joy out of an art form I love.”

League’s response to this email has already gone viral. After apologizing for a lag in response time, he thanked Arnett for sharing her story and apologized. “I’ve been talking to Devin lately and he is going through some very serious soul-searching right now,” League continued. “I hope that he does emerge from this as a better person. I’d appreciate it if you kept this dialogue between us. We’re now trying to move forward with the BMD brand, but I did want to get back to you personally.”

For many, League’s apparent efforts to silence Arnett’s accusations speaks to the inexplicable efforts the Alamo Drafthouse CEO has taken to help and protect his friend—efforts that have led him to privilege the well-being of Faraci over that of his victims and the Alamo Drafthouse community at large.

A follow-up email sent from League to Arnett following the publication of the Hollywood Reporter piece, dated Sept. 13, read as follows:

Todd Brown, a film blogger and director of International Programming at Fantastic Fest, severed his ties with the festival and Alamo Drafthouse when news of Faraci’s rehiring surfaced. In a lengthy Facebook post, Brown explained his decision to part ways with the company.

“When Fantastic Fest and Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League acknowledged that he had quietly and without any consultation rehired Devin Faraci at some unspecified time less than a year after Faraci was fired following sexual assault allegations there was no real option but to part ways,” Brown wrote. “Not because of what was in League’s explanation of the decision—his talk of second chances and rehabilitation—but because of what was not.”

He continued, “Tim, bluntly, does not get to forgive Devin for Devin’s alleged—and undisputed—sexual assault. Only the victim gets to do that. And where was she in this? Where was the concern for any victim of sexual violence and the message this would send to them? While I do not believe there was any malice in the decision to bring Faraci back there was, however, a clear, undeniable and arguably even callous disregard for the impact of this decision on anyone not named Devin Faraci… Anyone who has ever suggested that Fantastic Fest and the Drafthouse is just the geek friendly equivalent of the classic Old Boys Club, you have just been proven correct. We have just seen that Club in action. There it is, the Club utterly ignoring the victim while it creates a protective ring around the perpetrator.”

Brown emphasized to The Daily Beast that his resignation is “not a fuck Devin Faraci move.” As members of the “same generation of movie bloggers,” Brown explained that he and Faraci have known each other for a long time, even prior to them both joining “the Drafthouse family.”

“Obviously I’m aware of Devin’s history,” Brown added. “I’m aware of clashes he has had with other people, he’s a big personality, he’s had pretty vigorous personality clashes with some other people who are friends of mine, but that said, Devin and I have actually always gotten along really really well, and I have always really liked him personally.”

In fact, the former Fantastic Fest employee went so far as to reach out to Faraci personally to explain the reasoning behind his public resignation— “just to make sure that he knew that my decision to step away was really only marginally about him if at all.” Pressed to explain what motivated his decision, Brown first cited a lack of transparency. “I had no idea what was going on until the night before last when one of my writers on my website sent me a text saying, hey, have you seen Tim’s Facebook post,” he explained. “And no, I had not. And so I go on and take a look at this and, as far as I know, Devin is unemployed… and now suddenly there he is in a byline as an official voice of the festival. And nobody’s ever addressed anything.

“The message that sends, particularly to women, is just shocking,” Brown added. “And that’s the issue to me. There is a blindness that I’m very uncomfortable with… I’m not angry, is the thing. I’m disappointed. On one level I’m surprised because it’s Tim, and Tim’s smarter than this, on another level I’m not surprised, I’m just like, fuck, this is what guys do. And how does this keep happening, and what part in this am I playing, and do I want to be around it, and do I want to be a part of an apparatus that’s clearly skewing so far this way that this can happen and nobody says anything?”

Brown still doesn’t understand the extent to which members of the Drafthouse community enabled Faraci’s silent reintegration. “I still don’t know who knew,” he says, amazed. “I don’t know what the process was. There had to have been a larger circle.”

And he isn’t the only member of the larger Drafthouse community to take drastic action in light of the ongoing Faraci fiasco. According to The Hollywood Reporter, another programmer, who has chosen to remain anonymous, decided to disaffiliate from Drafthouse back in March.

The former employee, who worked for the company for seven years, told The Hollywood Reporter that, “I find the statement to be very disingenuous on Tim’s part because there was never any question of whether Devin would be given that opportunity. It wasn’t offered after a period of growth and change. Devin just very rapidly moved into his current copywriting/editing job after stepping down from Birth.Movies.Death.”

He continued, “Devin’s new position was not initially announced internally so it’s difficult for me to say with exact certainty when he began in it. But it was clear he was around, being cc’d on emails and such, within a month of his leaving BMD. After a number of employees expressed concern/outrage, an internal announcement was made much in the same spirit of Tim’s Facebook post, that he was ‘doing the work’ and deserved forgiveness and a second chance… I don’t feel that a single month or less is long enough to properly reflect on, atone for and change such long-standing behaviors.”

Caroline confirmed that she had heard rumors that Devin’s work with Drafthouse continued in various forms even after it was publicly announced that he had left the company. “I’d had anonymous twitter accounts DM me over the past year to tell me they thought Devin was still working under different names, and I ignored them because I didn’t feel like it was any of my business,” she told The Daily Beast. “I’d made my statements and I felt very done with it, while being open to the possibility that Devin might reach out at some point over his rehabilitation process. I didn’t want to indulge rumors. But over the past few days I’ve seen comments made by people in film criticism in Austin stating as much. It’s exasperating.”

A comment from Devin’s personal Facebook account suggests that he began taking on copywriting work in February. (Faraci and League did not respond to multiple requests for comment.)

Meanwhile, Todd Brown told The Daily Beast that while he doesn’t have a concrete sense of when Faraci was rehired, he believes that the initial separation was genuine. “I don’t know the timeline, but I think the firing, at least initially, was real. I do believe that. I think you legitimately have a man who is very compassionate and saw somebody that he knew and worked with and was friends with in a very bad place, and was very concerned about him, and he tried to relieve some pressure. And in doing that, he just didn’t take into account anything outside of the one person that was in front of him.”

On Thursday, Devin Faraci broke his silence with a Medium post titled “Where I Am.” In the brief entry, he wrote that, “In October of last year a woman (it’s not my place to name her) came forward to accuse me of groping her in 2003. I don’t remember the incident, but I know that I have been a blackout drinker. Faced with this serious accusation I had only one choice: believe the woman making the claim and accept personal responsibility. I felt that the morally correct action was to remove myself from my position and my world and to be quiet.” Faraci continued, “I have spent the last eleven months lying low and focusing on my recovery and spirituality. A few months into my recovery I was given the chance to do low-level copywriting as a way to keep my rent paid as I continued the journey. Now circumstances have arisen that leave me unemployed and back in the news… These are hard days for everyone. I am sorry to have made them harder for anyone, especially survivors of sexual abuse and assault who have had to relive traumas because of headlines and tweets about me.

“Believe women,” he wrote. “Especially when they’re talking about you.”

With Fantastic Fest set to begin on Sept. 21—Tim League has shared on Facebook that Devin Faraci will not be in attendance—community members are questioning the ethics of attending in light of Faraci’s continued involvement. Film writer Scott Weinberg posted on Twitter, “For the first time in 11 years I will not be attending Fantastic Fest. This breaks my damn heart but I’ve made my decision. Damn it.” He continued, “I feel like I’ve abandoned a friend at a tough time. That’s not what friends do. This whole thing is fucking my soul up,” adding, “In the past I have not always been the best ally to women. I’ve made bad jokes. Been disrespectful. I won’t be a part of that shit again.”

Meanwhile, Caroline has mused on her Twitter that, “some people seem to feel called to boycott Fantastic Fest but I would say, maybe go and feel emboldened to demand more of your community…everyone needs to navigate their own discomfort in their own way, but I am a huge advocate of having the uncomfortable conversation.”

“I would like to shift the burden of this conversation to the leadership at Alamo Drafthouse as an organization, and as a community, and to the cultural gatekeepers in positions of power within film criticism and ask: what steps are you going to take to process grievance in the future, and to protect your community?” Caroline told The Daily Beast. “A community can always start doing this, it’s never too late. Creating a safe receptacle for people to come forward is, to me, the first step towards healing what has been done. And I do trust that the Drafthouse community and movie community at large can do that work. It might be uncomfortable, but it’s possible.”