Yesterday evening, Alamo Drafthouse founder Tim League acknowledged via a Facebook post that, earlier this year, he quietly rehired Devin Faraci to work from home. Eleven months ago, he’d fired the former editor-in-chief of Birth.Movies.Death., the Alamo Drafthouse film site, after Faraci was accused of sexual assault. Faraci entered a 12-step program for alcohol, and is said to be in recovery. (For more details and backstory, please see here. And here.)
To say that news of his employment did not go over well would be an understatement. While League positioned his statement as a bid for transparency, and some friends and peers voiced their support, the announcement created a tsunami of outrage from Alamo fans, the alleged victims, and League’s own staff.
It also comes a week before League’s annual Fantastic Fest, now in its 12th year and a nexus for genre fanatics and geek-cinema culture. Veteran Fantastic Fest international programmer Todd Brown announced that he would resign over learning that Faraci was again employed by Drafthouse, while League’s post — and many other threads on Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit — is filled with angry and aghast comments from members of the film community as well as passionate Alamo fans.
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[Faraci’s] 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.
Without question, sexual misconduct is impermissible. The question is whether there is any path to redemption, and if so, what that path looks like.
Those are valid questions — but whatever path that might be, there’s reason to believe that the one League took isn’t it. We reached out to League for further comment, but his rep said he wasn’t doing interviews and referred us to the Facebook post.
League is no one’s idea of a suit. His single-minded dedication toward movies, the theatrical experience, and the fans who crave it built the Alamo Drafthouse and Fantastic Fest brands (and by extension, Neon Distribution, his new partnership with Tom Quinn). He’s known as a generous iconoclast — but here, we are baffled by his judgment.
With that in mind, this is what we’d like to ask Tim League.
1. Legally, isn’t this a terrible idea?
Attorney Lisa Bloom has represented plaintiffs in many sexual harassment cases, including the recent victory against Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly. We asked her opinion on what Faraci’s hiring could mean for Drafthouse’s legal vulnerability; she called it “a gold mine” for lawyers.
“The reason most sane companies are not going to hire someone with a significant sexual harassment history is because they are exposed to massive liability, including punitive damages if the guy sexually harasses or assaults somebody at the new company,” she said. “This [would be] a gold mine for me.
“If I represent a new woman against him, and I can prove that this company knew there was a history when they hired him — which clearly they did, because he said, ‘I think he deserves a second chance,’ which means he knew about the incident… punitive damages can be many millions of dollars. And there’s an alcohol problem? That’s another problem for an employer. You’re taking on a ticking time bomb.
“Unless they’re assigning a babysitter to sit with him, every minute of the day, monitoring his behavior, there’s really not a lot they can do. You can sexually harass people from home, you can do it on the computer, you can do it over the phone. Is his boss going to monitor all of his electronic communications and be there on every phone call? He’s taking a huge risk.
“People are very forgiving of sexual assault. It’s really remarkable. Look at Fox News. But then look at the tens of millions that they’ve paid out as a result.”
2. Why did you think this would support Faraci?
League said he made this decision to support Faraci, but it represents a hostile re-entry. In less than 24 hours, it’s inspired hundreds of angry comments directed at Faraci, League, and Drafthouse itself. You could call this a social-media witch hunt, the ravings of the Twitterverse — but that’s not the case here, and no one knows that more than League.
He built a small empire harnessing the power of the fiercely passionate indie film community, a feat that makes him the envy of his peers. League is loved for banning cell phones in his theater, for not running ads before the movies — essentially, for showing deep respect to a culture that is often disregarded.
That’s the same respect this community might have expected to see in dealing with Faraci. However, it’s hard to square denying second chances to in-theater texters but providing one to a friend and colleague accused of sexual assault.
League’s Facebook post is eloquent, but it came hours after a culture blog, Pajiba, posted this story: Why We Still Letting Devin Faraci Be a Thing? And while League’s Facebook post goes into some detail around the thinking that he led him to employ Faraci, first as an anonymous copywriter and now as a bylined contributor to the 2017 Fantastic Fest film program, he doesn’t say how much time passed between his re-hiring and Faraci’s removal from Birth.Movies.Death. Nor does his statement say much about the woman who accused Faraci of assault, or those who came to League afterward with similar stories.
Is League obligated to make those disclosures? Legally, no. Ethically, it would seem like a good idea. But to maintain the respect of the community and staff that loves Alamo and made League a success, it’s essential. While he has the perfect right to run his business as he sees fit, Alamo isn’t AMC Theaters. Alamo is built on the personal, and this reaction should have been entirely anticipated.
3. Why didn’t you inform the alleged assault victims, or your staff, in the name of transparency?
Neither key staff members nor the alleged victims received transparency considerations. They learned of Faraci at the same time that League published his public Facebook post. [Note: In the interest of their privacy, we’re not linking to their social media posts.] And at least one Fantastic Fest staff member stepped down in response.
Last night, Fantastic Fest international programmer Todd Brown posted on Twitter: “I would like to be very clear that despite over a decade of work as the director of international programming at Fantastic Fest, I had no advance knowledge of this decision nor knowledge that Devin was contributing to the program guide.”
This morning, Brown returned to Twitter to say: “I am stepping down from Fantastic Fest. Full statement will follow when I have a chance to write it.”
4. In the face of the Cinefamily disaster, why?
We know League has standards, and isn’t afraid to speak his mind if he thinks someone steps out of line. It’s one of the reasons that he may be the only exhibitor with a vocal fan club; many film institutions would love to emulate the way Drafthouse galvanized a community and fostered a thriving business out of it.
However, by embracing Faraci and dodging the concerns of that community, League and Drafthouse don’t look like a community organization, or even a corporation. At best, they look like they confused their loyalties, and made a really terrible mistake; at worst, they appear as blinkered as Cinefamily.