Filmmakers Look at Woody Allen Abuse Allegations in Four-Part Series
Documentary filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering have shed light on sexual abuse allegations in institutions such as the military for the past decade in The Invisible War (2012). Colleges, in “The Hunting Ground” (2015); and the music industry in “On the Record” (2020). Now they target Dylan Farrow’s decades of sexual abuse allegations against her adoptive father Woody Allen.
“Allen v. Farrow” is a four-part documentary that will be released later this month. It introduces viewers to Farrow’s public experience of accusing a famous and powerful man of abuse, but also includes details of the case that were not shared with the public.
At first, Farrow’s story didn’t fit in with the usual broad-based research by Dick and Ziering, but on closer inspection, the filmmakers found they had an opportunity to discuss family child abuse and incest, a topic that survivors consistently urged the two to address .
“I was haunted by these stories,” said Ziering. “That is the third track. Nobody talks about it. “
Everyone is talking about Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, however. The former Hollywood power couple were together for 12 years. They never married and had separate apartments, made 13 films together, adopted and had two children (Dylan and Moses) another (Satchel who changed his name to Ronan after his parents separated). They were the talk of the town until everything collapsed in 1992. Over the course of eight months, Farrow discovered nude photos of college-age daughter Soon-Yi Previn in Allen’s apartment. That summer, 7-year-old Dylan said Allen sexually assaulted her. These allegations resulted in an ugly custody battle and a permanently torn family apart. Allen has consistently denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime following investigations in Connecticut and New York.
With the media fully focused on the scandal for so many years, Dick said he believed he knew the story and was initially reluctant to delve further. “It’s been covered so extensively and a lot of our work goes into new cases,” he said. “But when we got involved, we found that there was a lot more. We turned around finding that the whole story had never come out. “
The filmmakers, along with Amy Herdy, the producer who led the investigation, spent three years tracking down court documents and police reports, and conducting extensive interviews with many witnesses who had never spoken to the public before.
The series begins February 21 on HBO and includes a home video of Mia Farrow growing up in Connecticut, as well as audio recordings she secretly taped from some conversations with everyone. And for the first time, we see 7-year-old Dylan’s videotape, taped immediately after Farrow’s allegations. The ribbon has become a hot button over the past two decades. One side is evidence of her truthfulness and the other side is evidence that Farrow coached her daughter in her responses. The filmmakers also raise questions about an important report from the Yale Child Sexual Abuse Clinic at Yale-New Haven Hospital that found Dylan incredible after nine interviews within seven months.
Neither Allen, Soon-Yi Previn nor Moses Farrow participated in the documentary. (The majority of Farrow’s other living children did so.) They declined to comment on the series that they had not yet seen.
I asked Dick and Ziering why they decided to get involved. You will find edited excerpts from our conversation below.
For so long this story has been told the way he said – it told a family drama in which many people declared, “We will never know the truth.”
Amy Ziering If you dig closer you see he said it, he said, he said, he said, he said, he said, she said [whispered]he said, he said, he said, he said. But we didn’t know. Nobody knew. If you get this echo chamber from a certain perspective and narrative, you will not recognize the source. That was interesting when we unpacked it. And when we started listening to the “She Said” part and checking out the “He Said” part, it got extremely interesting.
Since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, Allen has been ostracized in a number of ways: Amazon has canceled its film contract for several pictures. His latest film has not yet found US distribution. The first editor of his memoirs resigned. Some actors have said that they will no longer work with him in the future. Why publish this documentary now?
ZIERING Our goal is never the perpetrator. It is more about us all understanding these crimes, how we all participate in these crimes, and I mean all of us, both funny and unknowing. It’s also about how to talk about something that happens all the time in America that no one is comfortable with. This is not the full exploration of it. It’s a way of getting people to think about it.
THICK As with “On the Record,” where people need to know what happens when a person decides to come forward and immediately afterwards, this is built into the experience of the people involved. So it’s not just about someone being accused.
Whether by the media or by everyone himself, Farrow has long been portrayed as unstable? Was that your perception of her and has that changed?
THICK I just want to say that the suspicion and criticism that mothers have in this society in general are just evidence of misogyny. People like to blame mothers for anything. From the beginning I was very suspicious of this narrative because it is a misogynist narrative – the idea of the hysterical woman, the crazy woman. This is what not only happens with incest, which is done quite often, but also with sexual assault. Hearing that made me very, very suspicious.
ZIERING There are amazing wills [to Farrow] and people will see the home videos Mia has made of her children all her life. We have received a lot of love and praise from the people we interviewed about their qualities as mothers.
Wasn’t Dylan ready to give you the tape of her at the age of 7, the tape that has been at the center of this controversy for so long?
ZIERING It took Dylan a long time to feel comfortable and secure in sharing this video. And once she shared it, there were parameters about whether she’d be okay with us actually using it. It was incremental. We are not concerned with contributing to the pain of others.
At the end of the documentary, Mia says she’s still scared of Woody and is actually worried about what he’s going to do when he sees this series. Then why did she choose to participate? What was your goal?
ZIERING She didn’t want to be part of it. She did this for her daughter Dylan. In fact, in the interview you see her in, she’s in my shirt. I literally had to borrow someone else’s shirt and give her my shirt because when she showed up she didn’t want to do the interview, she was so unhappy. What did she wear? I don’t even remember.
She said, “My daughter came up to me and said it was important to me and you must do this for me.” And she said, “I stand by my children. I will take the incoming fire. I don’t know you, Amy. I don’t know Kirby. I know your work. I was angry because I didn’t do anything. ”
The series examines the Yale-New Haven clinic in depth. From the frequency with which the clinicians interviewed Dylan to the fact that any timely interview notes from those sessions were destroyed when the final report was published. In your previous sexual abuse research, have you ever seen a situation where such notes were destroyed?
THICK I had not. It’s really shocking that notes get destroyed, but that’s one of the reasons the whole story never came out. If everything had been transparent, we wouldn’t have made this series.
How actively did you try to reach out to Soon-Yi, Moses, and Woody? Have you ever got an answer from any of them?
THICK We have definitely achieved. We didn’t expect them to speak. If we were to make a movie about Woody Allen’s career, he probably wouldn’t be talking to us. It didn’t surprise us.
Were there any threats of lawsuits or anything else from the Allen camp when you put this together?
THICK No. We are always careful when verifying facts. We went to great lengths to ensure accuracy.
ZIERING As always. We never had to withdraw a fact. Legally, it would have been easier to adapt a book or write a story about someone who is already convicted. This way you won’t be in front of a moving train. But unfortunately we actually run in front of moving trains. The only thing that can save us is truth and extreme caution. We are not dead yet.