MoMA has fired its Assistant Curator of Film Sally Berger after 30 years at the organization, the museum’s Chief Curator of Film Rajendra Roy confirmed in an emailed statement.
“My actions reflect several complex and substantive issues, and are the result of a long and deliberative process that Sally has been part of,” Roy wrote. “As painful as this decision has been, I stand by it.”
Berger could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
MoMA spokeswoman Margaret Doyle told IndieWire the organization could not discuss the details surrounding personnel issues. Facebook posts from more than a dozen acquaintances of Berger’s seemed to suggest the reason for her termination was related to the canceling of a film that was scheduled to play at MoMA’s 2016 Doc Fortnight festival in February.
Last week, Roy issued a statement expressing regret for pulling “Under the Sun,” a documentary about North Korea, from the festival, saying that the decision was “made by the festival’s curator without my knowledge or input.” Roy called the film “a remarkable documentary that was wrongly disinvited.”
Though North Korea’s government allowed “Under the Sun” to be shot after approving the script, cast, and several other aspects, director Vitaly Mansky edited the film to reveal this manipulation, showing how the country attempted to exert control of the production, The New York Times reported.
Earlier this year, Berger wrote an email to the film’s distributor in which she expressed concern over potential retaliation from North Korea over screening the documentary. The concerns stemmed from the 2014 hacking of Sony Pictures that the U.S. attributed to North Korea in response to the 2014 film “The Interview,” the Times reported. Berger wrote that the doc “simply came in too late to review all the possible ramifications of showing it.”
Former MoMA film curator Laurence Kardish told IndieWire in an email, “I no longer understand what goes on in my old stomping grounds…Doesn’t a curator have the right to pick and choose what is to be shown under his/her auspices?”
Kardish added that he also found the timing of Roy’s apology confusing. “Why is MoMA apologizing now for a film it did not show nor even announce it was going to show four months ago, and why is this newsworthy?” he wrote.
Roy wrote in his statement that MoMA “will maintain our commitment to showing the work of marginalized and under recognized communities and filmmakers and to combating censorship wherever we can.”