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Allen v Farrow: riveting four-part documentary urging it’s time to change the notion of genius

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The MeToo movement opened the possibilities to alter popular discourse. The collective voices of the survivors did not provoke so much an alternative narrative as an examination of existing stories: a defamiliarization of familiar characters. As a consequence, a series of docuseries (Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich, Athlete A) emerged, capitalizing on the heightened sense of consciousness, attempting to rewrite history. They probed the facts of the accused, using the emotional weight of the survivors’ testimonies as a guiding light, simultaneously locating the blind spots of power and our consideration for it. This does Allen vs. Farrow-A riveting four-part documentary about the long-standing sexual abuse allegations against filmmaker Woody Allen, and the infamous trials that followed with his then-partner and actress Mia Farrow, a direct result of social urgency. Except that it is superimposed on the pieces of evidence so as not to strengthen an instance of proportionate justice (Untouchable) or delayed (Bikram: yogi, guru, predator) but underline her miscarriage.

Little about the case has eluded the public’s knowledge or attention. The American director was accused of sexually abusing his seven-year-old daughter Dylan Farrow at Mia Farrow’s home in Connecticut on August 4, 1992. For his part, Allen rejected all claims and refuted the allegations as a vicious attempt by his 12-year-old partner – Mia – to get back at him for being sexually involved with one of his adopted daughters, Soon-Yi Previn. Soon-Yi was 21, Allen 56.

He deemed her an “unfit mother”, and sought sole custody of her biological son, Satchel (Ronan Farrow) and the adopted children, Dylan and Moses, whom she ultimately lost. At the same time, Frank Maco, the former Connecticut state attorney, referred the Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital to present a report, which after six months of investigation, gave Allen a good note on the unreliable identification of Dylan. Later, Maco stopped pressing charges to prevent Dylan from suffering further trauma. The same year, the New York Child Welfare Agency of the State Department of Social Services concluded in its 14-month investigation that the allegations were unfounded.

These broad lines, exposing Allen’s alleged misdemeanor and eventual acquittal, have long served as the premise for the infamous dispute. Filmmakers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick follow a similar trajectory. But instead of retelling, they dive deep into family history, uncovering deliberate omissions, exposing shortcomings. Take, for example, how the Yale report was reported to Allen first, bypassing Maco, who started it. Or, the investigation notes were destroyed, apparently due to negligence. And that Allen worked overtime giving interviews and planting his version of the story – Mia coaching Dylan – into the public consciousness.

The documentary makers then refuse to sell ambiguities that have long engulfed the speech. Instead, like their previous jobs, they make their position known despite the fact that this time they face judicial acquittal. They construct it as a case unto itself, evident in the wording of the title and using excerpts from Allen’s memoirs. Talking about nothing to make up for his absence (he apparently refused to be interviewed), choosing his side from the start and refuting any criticism of the ethical fallacy with our prolonged fallibility of judgment on powerful men.

The documentary counters any misgivings about not informing us about the other side by suggesting that for a long time the “other side” has been the only side; his story has been the only story. In that sense Allen vs. FarrowMerit is based solely on the effectiveness of the plea, the determination of the narrative.

The documentary counters any misgivings about not informing us about the other side by suggesting that for a long time the “other side” has been the only side; his story has been the only story. (Source: Disney + Hotstar)

Over four episodes, Ziering and Dick, whose filmography includes extensive work with survivors of sexual abuse (On The Record, The Hunting Ground), present the familiar narrative and intersperse it with the one they are counting on, supplemented by loads of footage. archive of home videos. , rare photos, and hitherto unheard of phone conversations – to propose by extension Allen’s unreliability as a storyteller, suggesting that the director is capable of both: the one who makes a mistake and the one who projects himself to be wronged.

During one of Mia and Allen’s phone conversations, when asked if he was recording the call (Mia started recording the calls when their relationship ended, fearing he was doing the same thing), he responds with his own neurotic way of saying. even know how to do it. Moments later he can be heard telling someone that he is in fact doing it. In another case, he accuses her of speaking to a magazine and flatly denies doing anything similar. He was featured on the cover shortly after.

This duality reinforces the other claims made by Mia: being a frequent contributor to her films but sharing an unequal association. At one point, the actor admits to being terrified before shooting. “It could be funny but not too funny,” she recounts, while admitting that she didn’t have an agent for years and was often told she could be easily replaceable.

But it seems more damning when Dylan, placed at the center of the ordeal, recalls how forgiving a father was and expresses in vivid detail what he did later. Adopted by Mia after Allen expressed his desire for a blond boy, Dylan was soon close to him. And he was obsessed. In various interviews, many images of which are used, he claims to be “crazy” about her. As the incidents of that horrible day are recounted, with the help of the painful video of little Dylan telling Mia that “Daddy touched her private parts,” images of an empty attic dominate the screen. The stealth provided by spatial perspectives puts viewers in Dylan’s shoes, taking us into the attic with her, appeasing our sense of being trapped. He implores us to reconstruct an image that the documentary seems terrified of doing on its own. He makes us feel his betrayal with piercing clarity.

Evoking a feeling of betrayal is both the intention and the goal of the documentary. (Source: Disney + Hotstar)

Evoking this sense of betrayal is both the intent and the goal of the documentary. By existing in a hyperconscious world that already fights against the guilt of not knowing better, it arms our guilt. It fills us with a sense of failure for having let Dylan down all these years, for sitting on the fence until as recently as 2014, when he wrote an open letter detailing his abuse in no uncertain terms. But this deception Allen vs. Farrow evidence, run deeper. If Allen had let his daughter down, he did us no better. If Dylan admired him, we did too for a long time. If he broke her trust, didn’t he do something similar to us by using his movies for years to normalize relationships, focusing on older men (almost always rehearsed by him) shot by younger, sexually charged women, which is restoring history? have demonstrated? be inaccurate and abusive? Have you not used your art to assiduously construct your own defense?

So, the documentary asks, what do we do with their art or with the many monstrous men who use their position to control narratives and gifts to hone their tools of exoneration? Do we shirk responsibility by seeing his job divorced from him? Or do we, according to the times, cancel them entirely? For someone who has lived most of his life with impunity, he has a huge body of work, consisting of 69 films, and a staggering amount of accolades, the latter of which is irrelevant and criminally late. And if love is subjective, shouldn’t the concession we make to it also differ?

But by taking sides with the rigor of investigative journalists, Ziering and Dick exhort that it is time to amend our notion of genius, to make room for moral flaws in our adulation of his legacy, to inform, if not limit, the concession. we offer so freely. . It is time to look at artists for who they are and not for what we want them to be. By taking sides, documentary makers make our default neutral positions unbearably disconcerting.

Allen v Farrow is broadcasting on Disney + Hotstar

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