Allen v Farrow is pure PR. Why else would it omit so much? | Film

“HBO Doc About Woody Allen & Mia Farrow Ignores Mia’s 3 Lifeless Children, Her Little one Molester Brother, Different Household Tragedies” was the headline on one US showbiz web site, above its evaluation of the four-part documentary, Allen v Farrow, concerning the persevering with battle between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, now getting into its fourth decade. However this evaluation was very a lot an outlier. Within the huge fundamental, response to the strongly anti-Allen collection has been overwhelmingly optimistic, with Buzzfeed describing it as a “nuanced reckoning” and Entertainment Weekly comparing it to the recent documentaries about Michael Jackson and Jeffrey Epstein. This response is extra of a mirrored image of the general public’s emotions in the direction of Allen – significantly within the US – than of the documentary, which units itself up as an investigation however far more resembles PR, as biased and partial as a politician’s advert vilifying an opponent in election season.

A recap for many who have managed to remain unaware of this enduring household drama or, extra doubtless, forgotten the small print over time, one thing the documentary is closely relying on. Again in 1992, Allen, then 57, admitted he was having an affair with Quickly-Yi Previn, 21, the adopted daughter of his longterm associate, Farrow, with whom he had two adopted kids – Dylan and Moses – and one organic little one, Ronan (identified then as Satchel). A number of months after that, on the peak of their viciously acrimonious break up, Farrow accused Allen of molesting Dylan, who was then seven, one afternoon whereas she was out of the home. Medical doctors examined Dylan and found no evidence of abuse. Allen was investigated by the Yale New Haven Hospital’s sexual abuse clinic which concluded: “It is our opinion that Dylan was not sexually molested by Mr Allen.” He was additionally investigated by New York State’s Division of Social Companies, which wrote: “No credible proof was discovered that the kid named on this report has been abused or maltreated.”

In Allen v Farrow, administrators Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick play on two robust currents in immediately’s standard tradition: first, the large urge for food for true crime documentaries, and second, a re-evaluation of previous wrongs, wanting again at a distant time when individuals had been insufficiently developed to know social justice. These two parts wrestle to work collectively as a result of except a real crime documentary has a smoking gun – comparable to Robert Durst’s confession in The Jinx – the attraction of the style lies in its ambiguity, permitting the viewers to play detective, comparable to with the podcast Serial, or Netflix’s Making a Assassin.

On this regard, the Allen case is truly an ideal topic for a real crime documentary, provided that the case has all the time had a number of – to place it mildly – ambiguities, a lot of which have now been forgotten. However Ziering and Dick don’t appear to have any curiosity in that, as a result of their focus is on social justice. They’ve been criticised previously for “placing advocacy forward of accuracy” of their 2015 documentary about campus rape, Searching Floor, which used discredited knowledge.


The Guardian despatched an in depth listing of Allen v Farrow’s omissions to Ziering and Dick. As a substitute of responding to them individually, they despatched this response, which they requested be printed in full:

The film-makers behind Allen v Farrow meticulously examined tens of hundreds of pages of paperwork, together with courtroom transcripts, police studies, eyewitness testimonies and little one welfare information. We spoke with dozens of individuals concerned with the case who had first-hand data of the occasions and whose accounts may very well be independently corroborated. Allen v Farrow is an entire, thorough and correct presentation of the details.

Dick has described himself previously as “an activist and a film-maker”, and and activism will be the alternative of journalism, as a result of slightly than asking questions to seek out the reality, the conclusion seems pre-ordained from the beginning, with inconvenient details getting pushed apart – and there are lots of inconvenient details when it involves Allen.

Woody Allen and Mia Farrow at a Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks game in New York in 1983.
Happier days … Woody Allen and Mia Farrow at a Philadelphia 76ers and New York Knicks sport in New York in 1983. {Photograph}: Invoice Kostroun/AP

Again within the early 90s, individuals had been extra shocked by his relationship with Quickly-Yi than they had been by the quickly scotched allegation of kid molestation. However ever since 2014, when Dylan and Ronan started to speak out publicly in opposition to their father, the general public and media, anxious to not be on the mistaken aspect of historical past once more, have targeted on the molestation declare, and Allen is now broadly agreed to be, to make use of the at present standard time period, “problematic”. “It’s time to ask some exhausting questions,” Ronan wrote in a 2016 article, evaluating his father to Invoice Cosby.

A type of exhausting questions, which Ziering and Dick work very exhausting to not reply, may very well be: is it actually cheap to say Allen alongside Cosby – and Jackson, Epstein, Harvey Weinstein and different superstar predators – when the latter have all been charged or convicted of a number of crimes going again many years, and Allen was accused of 1 incident and never solely by no means convicted however by no means even charged, and there has by no means been a touch of scandal round him since? Given how a lot sterling work Ronan has achieved in exposing Weinstein and different compulsive predators, you’d suppose he would possibly ask himself that query, however apparently not. Ziering and Dick appear equally sure of their case, however it’s exhausting to imagine they’ve so a lot religion in it once they omit so many related particulars.

For instance, regardless of the documentary’s declare to transcend “the tip of the iceberg”, it by no means finds time to get into the testimonies of Monica Thompson, Dylan’s nanny, who was very a lot on the floor of the iceberg. Initially Thompson informed police that Farrow was “a great mom,” however then retracted it, saying she felt she needed to say it or “I would lose my job.” She then gave two sworn affidavits that Farrow had tried to pressure her into supporting the molestation cost, and said that Allen “was all the time the higher father or mother and all of the issues Farrow is saying about him will not be true”.

Allen, Farrow and family, including Soon-Yi Previn (far right) in 1986.
Allen, Farrow and household, together with Quickly-Yi Previn (far proper) in 1986. {Photograph}: Time & Life Footage/The LIFE Image Assortment/Getty Photos

It does, nonetheless, have the house to incorporate a New York Occasions reporter mournfully asserting that he can by no means watch a Woody Allen movie once more, which is really a game-changer of a revelation. The collection works very exhausting to discredit the Yale New Haven investigation and the Farrows dismiss the report’s discovering that Dylan had “bother distinguishing between fantasy and actuality”, placing this right down to strangers not understanding Dylan’s references. The film-makers don’t embrace the testimony from Dylan’s personal therapist on the time, Dr Nancy Schulz, who said that Farrow and Allen first requested her to deal with Dylan as a result of the kid “lived in her personal fantasy world”.

Dr Susan Coates, one other one of many household’s many psychologists, testified {that a} 1990 analysis discovered that Dylan was simply “taken over by fantasy”, even when requested to explain a tree.

The collection’ opening titles are in a white-on-black font that bears a queasy resemblance to the one Allen makes use of for his films, as if the film-makers are pleased with their refusal, or incapability, to look past Allen’s public persona. (Ziering and Dick break the surprising information that Manhattan – arguably Allen’s most well-known movie – is a couple of relationship between a youngster and a middle-aged man.) Allen himself is not within the documentary – he allegedly declined to be interviewed; nor is anybody who helps him. Regardless of the title’s suggestion of stability, this is very a lot the Farrows’ present with Farrow interviewed in an typically glowing golden gentle, and her kids Dylan, Ronan, Fletcher Previn and Daisy Previn, backing up all claims that Farrow was a saint and Allen seemingly good however truly, it turned out, scum. Ziering and Dick know they don’t have a lot in the way in which of recent materials, other than some never-before-seen Farrow-Allen household movies. Alas, these movies of Allen taking part in within the pool along with his younger kids are disappointingly non-damning, and so the film-makers overlay them with mournful, ominous music. “[Dylan] went from being effervescent to having a withdrawn high quality,” Ronan says, recalling a interval when he was – at most – 4 years previous.

Shooting Radio Days in 1987.
Capturing Radio Days in 1987. {Photograph}:

The video of seven-year-old Dylan telling her mom that her father touched her on her “privates” is undeniably painful to observe, however it’s by no means been in query whether or not she mentioned this. The query is was she coached to say it: the Yale New Haven workforce and, later, Moses Farrow say she was; the Farrows and all the speaking heads Ziering and Dick assemble collectively say she wasn’t. It would be ludicrous for outsiders to say who is proper, however it’s fascinating how the collection glides over the element – reported on the time by a journalist sympathetic to the Farrows – that when Dylan was requested by a physician the place her father touched her she initially “pointed to her shoulder”.

A lot is fabricated from the quote by Coates when she described Allen’s relationship with Dylan as “inappropriately intense” (much less is fabricated from her comply with up that it was “not sexual”). However there are not any references to Coates’ fears for Allen’s “security” after Farrow found the affair with Quickly-Yi, as a consequence of her “escalating rage”.


In the course of the interval after the breakup, Farrow gave Allen a Valentine’s Day card that featured a photograph of all the kids, which she stabbed with pins and scissors. In a 1992 interview, Allen mentioned that Farrow informed him: “You took away my daughter, and I’m gonna take away yours.”

Mia and Ronan Farrow at the Venice film festival in 2004.
Mia and Ronan Farrow on the Venice movie competition in 2004. {Photograph}: Rex/Sipa Press

When Farrow later informed Coates that Dylan mentioned Allen had molested her, she sounded, for the primary time because the discovery of the affair, “very calm”. “I used to be puzzled. I didn’t perceive her calm,” Coates said.

The issue with bias is that it undermines every part you say, nonetheless fascinating or credible. Of biggest significance to obsessives about this case is the revelation within the documentary that, of their map of the home, the Connecticut State Police drew a practice observe within the attic house the place Dylan says her father molested her. Since 2014, Dylan has said she stared at an electrical practice “as it traveled in its circle across the observe” whereas her father abused her, promising, she has mentioned, that she would be “a star in his films”.

Moses and Allen have written that there was no electrical practice within the attic, and Allen has said that the attic allegation was impressed by a tune by Dory Previn, whose husband André left her for Mia in 1970. With My Daddy within the Attic is about incest and molestation and options lyrics comparable to “Door closed on Mama … / With my Daddy within the attic / That is the place my darkish attraction lies.” (This tune seems on the identical album as Dory Previn’s infamous tune, Beware Younger Ladies, which was about Farrow’s affair with André.)

The police drawing suggests Dylan was telling the reality. Nonetheless, Robert B Weide, a director and good friend of Allen, has blogged in response to the series {that a} nanny within the family testified on the time that there was a practice set stored up there – not a small electrical one, however a chunky plastic practice the kids would sit on and experience. So in different phrases, everybody is proper and in addition mistaken: a practice was saved up there, as Dylan mentioned, however not an electrical one that might have circled the observe, as Moses and Allen mentioned. It’s some extent that sums up so most of the gray areas to this case, and yet one more one which Ziering and Dick denote as a substitute as black and white.

Dylan Farrow in Allen v Farrow.
Dylan Farrow in Allen v Farrow. {Photograph}: HBO

Ziering and Dick inform the story – which was reported at the time – about New York Metropolis welfare case employee Paul Williams, who was a part of an investigation into Allen, and who claimed that he had been urged by his superiors to seek out the costs “unfounded”. When he refused – and we see him telling reporters he “believes the child” – he was taken off the case. Ziering and Dick strongly suggest that one thing dodgy occurred right here, however as a substitute of discovering any precise proof, the film-makers air solely unproven theories that Allen was being protected by the Metropolis of New York, even maybe by then-mayor David Dinkins, as a result of “he made his films in New York and that introduced hundreds of thousands of {dollars} to New York Metropolis”, theorises Farrow. (Sadly, if maybe conveniently, Dinkins is now useless and so can’t touch upon this.) On the time of the investigation, Allen’s lawyer, Elkan Abramowitz, said that Williams was removed from the case as a result of when he interviewed individuals “he acted in a impolite vogue and gave the impression to be biased”. Now, it wouldn’t be exhausting to model this as shady lawyer obfuscation, so why don’t Ziering and Dick embrace this counter-argument within the movie? As a result of counter-arguments are of little curiosity to Ziering and Dick.

Wealthy and highly effective males do and did get away with lots – this is a given. However the documentary’s competition that “if you’re a robust superstar male, you might be almost unimaginable to prosecute” is undermined by its frequent comparisons between Allen and male celebrities – Weinstein, Cosby, Polanski, and so on – who’ve, actually, all been prosecuted. Why not Allen, the documentary asks? Nicely, there may be some good causes for that which don’t have anything to do with Mayor Dinkins.

Opposite to longstanding rumours that Allen refused to take a lie-detector take a look at administered by the Connecticut State Police, he was by no means requested to take one. As a substitute, he took one administered by Paul Minor, who for a few years ran the polygraph division of the FBI. He handed.

Allen and Soon-Yi Previn with their daughters, Bechet and Manzie Tio, in 2002.
Allen and Quickly-Yi Previn with their daughters, Bechet and Manzie Tio, in 2002. {Photograph}: Alonso Gonzales/REUTERS

Equally, the picture the collection attracts of Allen as terrifyingly highly effective, his thumb drilling down on the scales of justice, is contradicted by the truth that Choose Elliott Wilk dominated in opposition to him within the custody case, which was occurring through the scandal, when Allen sued for custody of Ronan, Dylan and Moses, and misplaced. Farrow, however, gave her subsequent adopted little one, Thaddeus, the center identify Wilk, as an indication of gratitude to the decide.

Thaddeus later died from what Moses has called suicide, whereas one other little one adopted by Farrow, named Tam, died by what Moses claims is suicide and Farrow says was a coronary heart ailment. The movie mentions neither – nor an extra adopted little one, Lark, who died in poverty from an Aids-related sickness. There is the same silence within the part on Mia’s household about her brother, John Villiers-Farrow, a convicted paedophile.

Then there’s Quickly-Yi. The documentary, and the Farrow household, can’t determine whether or not she’s an evil seductress who have to be shunned, or a tragic sufferer of a sexual predator, as they declare Allen to be. A good friend of the household says within the documentary that Allen solely mentioned he “loves” Quickly-Yi in a 1992 press convention with a purpose to distract from the molestation cost; nobody in the complete documentary factors out that Allen and Quickly-Yi have now been collectively for nearly 25 years, which suggests their relationship – as distasteful as it was at first – is clearly greater than a smokescreen, and now seems shut to traditional.

Moses and Mia Farrow at the wedding of Liza Minnelli and David Gest, 2002.
Moses and Mia Farrow on the wedding ceremony of Liza Minnelli and David Gest, 2002. {Photograph}: Charles Sykes/REX/Shutterstock

After the affair was found, Daisy Previn says within the documentary that she informed her sister: “Mother will forgive you.” Farrow insists she “by no means blamed” Quickly-Yi, though she admits she did hit her when she caught her speaking on the telephone to Allen. Soon-Yi and Moses have written that she did much more, claiming Farrow was bodily abusive to them and favoured her organic kids over her adopted ones. These allegations are firmly denied by Dylan, Ronan and Fletcher, however Thompson confirmed them in her 1993 testimony.

“The issues [Moses] accuses [Farrow] of are ludicrous,” says Dylan. In virtually the subsequent breath, she complains that anybody who doubts her allegations in opposition to her father is denying her the proper “to explain my very own experiences”. Some kids’s experiences are extra equal than others.

Ziering and Dick don’t know what occurred between Dylan and her father. Neither do I and neither, maybe, does anybody at this level, as repeated retellings take the place of actual reminiscence. Braver and higher film-makers would drill down into how historic reality can change over time, and the way two individuals can have a look at one picture and see very various things. Was Allen’s tendency to comply with Dylan anxiously across the playground creepy, as one in all Farrow’s pals alleges, or was it the behaviour of a famously neurotic man experiencing fatherhood for the primary time? And if Farrow’s good friend Carly Simon noticed Allen “eroding [Farrow’s] vanity”, as she claims within the documentary, why, in 1992, did she write a tune, titled Love of My Life, which included the lyric, “I really like … Woody Allen”? Simon ultimately changed the line – though not till 2007 – however a journalist would have requested her about this. Ziering and Dick didn’t.

The one actual query this documentary poses is why it exists in any respect. Allen’s guilt – actually in his dwelling nation – is already broadly assumed: his identify is cited alongside Weinstein’s and Cosby’s in newspapers; Amazon reneged on a four-movie cope with him when his public denials of wrongdoing had been deemed too problematic, and cancelled the US launch of his final movie, A Wet Day in New York; his unique writer binned his memoir final 12 months after lobbying from the Farrows, a element that is additionally omitted within the documentary, regardless of heavy utilization of the audiobook of Allen’s memoir in lieu of an precise interview with him.

“For the previous 20 years he was in a position to run amok,” Dylan complains, and it’s true, he was. And he’ll proceed to do so as a result of he was investigated, twice, and no wrongdoing was discovered, which is precisely what this documentary finds, too. There is an comprehensible and admirable worry among the many public to not repeat the errors of the previous: to not disbelieve ladies, to not downplay the trauma of sexual abuse. However not all allegations are the identical, and a few circumstances are too complicated to suit into the black-and-white template mindset of activism. Within the third episode, Farrow recounts a dialog she had with Allen by which he allegedly mentioned to her: “It doesn’t matter what’s true – it issues what individuals imagine.” She tells this as proof of Allen’s coldness, his cruelty, however he was proper. The definitive reality won’t ever be identified about this case. However individuals will all the time imagine what they need.

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