When Ryan Coogler brought his first feature “Fruitvale Station” to the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, it was Harvey Weinstein who bought and distributed the breakout film. The success of “Fruitvale” helped kickstart the director’s career, which continued with “Creed” and next summer’s “Black Panther” in just five years since Weinstein released the film.
Coogler has now addressed the multiple accusations being made by several women who say they have been sexually harassed or assaulted by Weinstein.
“I am disturbed and saddened at the news that several women have been victimized by a person I had come to know through the purchase of my first feature film,” said Coogler in statement sent to IndieWire. “While I had no further business dealings with Harvey Weinstein, and no knowledge of this predatory behavior, my career did benefit from this brief involvement. Because of that, I feel a responsibility to speak up on this issue.”
In his statement, Coogler moved past Weinstein to address the larger problem of how women are treated in the film industry and why he feels it is so important to hire female crew on every production.
“I love working as a storyteller,” said Coogler. “But I work in an industry that too many times has proven to not be a safe space for women. I make it a priority to ensure that there is gender equity and an inclusive work environment on every project I am involved with.”
For his part, Coogler has worked with female cinematographers – twice with Rachel Morrison, once with Maryse Alberti – on each of his three feature films. But Coogler emphasized that those in positions of power must do more.
“However, just minding our business sometimes isn’t enough,” said Coogler. “The entertainment industry, like many others, has a historic imbalance of power among gender that allows these violations to run rampant. As men we sit in positions of privilege. It is our responsibility to leverage our position, and be allies to the women in our industry. We need to do everything we can to make sure violations like these don’t continue to happen. The first step is to listen. Salute to the brave women who came forward. I could never imagine how difficult that must be.”
Coogler also noted the severity of the crimes for which Weinstein is being accused.
“It goes without saying, but I will state it now,” he said. “Sexual harassment is a human rights violation, sexual assault is a human rights violation, rape is a human rights violation.”