Despite a Twitter scandal in which “Guns Akimbo” director Jason Lei Howden’s allegedly targeted film critics of color whom he accused of cyber-bullying, distributor Saban Films said it still plans to open the actioner starring Daniel Radcliffe on February 28.
“We are releasing ‘Guns Akimbo’ this Friday, February 28,” a Saban Films representative told IndieWire on Monday. “While we do not condone, agree or share Mr. Howden’s online behavior, which is upsetting and disturbing, we are supportive of the film and all the hard work and dedication that has gone into making ‘Guns Akimbo.'”
The controversy began to unfold late last week after Dilara Elbir — a film journalist and editor-in-chief at a small film site, Much Ado About Cinema — was the subject of a fast-spreading tweet which included a screenshot of a Twitter DM in which Elbir used a racial epithet. In response, social media exploded with messages that targeted Elbir. In the days that followed, most of Elbir’s writers exited the site. Last Thursday, Elbir posted online threats of suicide in a series of emotionally charged videos. Now, both the site and the videos are offline. Elbir, according to a friend via Twitter, was in the hospital as of Friday. (The original callout tweet revealing Elbir’s use of the N word has been pulled by the user.)
In response — as revealed on Twitter via screenshots, several of which are presented below — Howden began targeting specific writers on Twitter, accusing them of cyber-bullying Elbir into a suicide attempt. “You bullied a woman until she tried to commit suicide, I hope no film site ever works with you again” was just one example of the multiple tweets Howden directed at writer Valerie Complex.
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Those subject to his harassment all appear to be female or non-binary-identifying people of color. The Playlist editor-in-chief Rodrigo Perez summed up the online harassment in a Twitter thread, embedded below.
“They were harassed and sent death threats,” Complex told IndieWire of Howden’s online rants toward the some dozen writers who left Much Ado About Cinema. (Here’s another example via Twitter, with writer Mia Vicino-Pitt announcing departure from the site.) “I made a post asking why he did that and told him he was fucking crazy to excuse anti-blackness as a joke. And that’s where the war between him and I began. Said I tried to murder Dilara and just harassing any WoC he has something to say. … This has been going down for 48 hours and counting. Harassed from numerous profiles. It’s been wild.”
Howden’s Twitter account has since been taken down. However, Howden allegedly continued to send harassing tweets from the “Guns Akimbo” official Twitter account, which still stands but hasn’t tweeted since February 22.
ICYMI: , the director of Guns Akimbo, a new Daniel Radcliffe film, knowingly falsely accused Val and other female poc writers of bullying another woman (they did not). He was called out by men (me, Robert), But he decided to only target, smear and harass POC women https://t.co/eW8fWucGO1 pic.twitter.com/VXEwWTtP0x
— Rodrigo Perez Daddy 📽🎞📺 (@YrOnlyHope) February 23, 2020
I want everyone to know that the Director of GUNS AKIMBO thinks as long as you say the N word in jest, it’s ok.
He also proceeded list the names and bully folks on their decision to leave a situation they thought was toxic. Thus bringing them threats of harm. Fucking awful. pic.twitter.com/XoXamO6lDj
— Valerie Complex♓️♎️♋️ (@ValerieComplex) February 21, 2020
Additional reporting by Kate Erbland.