Last summer, I caught the original cut of Abel Ferrara‘s “Welcome To New York,” a fictionalized take on the scandal surrounding former IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn who was accused in 2011 of sexually assaulting a hotel worker In New York City. The director’s film is a provocative piece of work, and a very, very good film, one I called “an unflinching portrait of a monster.” Indeed, one of the film’s crucial scenes comes from the assault, which makes it clear a crime was committed and doesn’t shy away from the horrific nature of the act. But it would appear that that key sequence and others have been reshaped and edited for the U.S. release without Ferrara’s permission.
As I noted when the film’s U.S trailer dropped, the running time for the movie had been trimmed from Ferrara’s 125 minutes to 108 minutes, clearly indicating that the director’s prior concerns that IFC Films were pressuring him to trim his movie were well founded. But the extent of the edit goes far beyond cutting a few scenes.
In a statement sent to press, Ferrara explains the deplorable change made to the sexual assault sequence that drives the movie. “The version being released in the U.S. may lead viewers to think that maybe she imagined it. It does not respect the woman who was raped at all and the fact that my name is on this film is a crime,” he said. And indeed, this is as astonishing edit, particularly in a climate where assaults against women are still notoriously difficult to prosecute for a variety of systemic reasons, one of them being a culture that often blames the victim or fails to understand the very fundamental nature of deep trauma and how it is manifested afterward. (The fact that the Vice President needs to set aside $41 million dollars to address the rape kit backlog says a lot).
However, as Indiewire notes, Ferrara may be pointing his anger and frustration somewhat in the wrong direction: producers Wild Bunch guaranteed IFC Films an R-rated cut of the movie when they sold the movie to them, so it could be broadcast on television. And more, the company’s Maraval notes the edited version has already been released elsewhere. “This version has existed for eight months, has been released all over the world by distributors to whom we gave the choice between two versions, and all unanimously preferred the shorter version not only for commercial reasons but because they found it much better,” he stated.
The cut version of “Welcome To New York” opens on March 27th….or not. THR reports that the filmmaker has sent the distributors a cease-and-desist letter.