Why Film Festivals Were Backdrops to Harvey Weinstein’s Sexual Assault

Sundance, Cannes, and Toronto all come up in stories featuring allegations against Weinstein. How did those settings empower him?

In 1995, Harvey Weinstein tried to give Mira Sorvino a massage, chasing her around the room when she rebuffed him. In 1996, he sexually assaulted rising French actress Judith Godrèche in a hotel room; a year later, he had another incident with Rose McGowan. In 2008, actress Louisette Geiss fled a hotel room where Weinstein tried to get her to watch him masturbate. In 2010, he tricked another French actress, Emma de Caunes, into visiting a hotel room where he exposed himself and tried to get her lie down. 

In all of these accounts, Weinstein seemed to think that the relative privacy of the hotel room provided him with a sanctuary in which he could perform deplorable acts on whomever he pleased, but the context was more specific than that: In every instance, he was at a film festival. 

The Sorvino incident allegedly took place at the Toronto International Film Festival, while Godrèche and de Caunes say they dealt with Weinstein’s grotesque maneuvers at Cannes. Geiss and McGowan were at Sundance. These environments are key to understanding the atmosphere of abuse and secrecy that sustained Weinstein’s behavior through the decades.

Along with his brother Bob, Weinstein’s Miramax fostered a mythology surrounding the birth of the American independent film industry. In between world premieres, it was a world of aggressive dealmaking, late-night parties, and raucous showdowns between talent, industry veterans, and audience members. That mythology also allowed Harvey Weinstein to preside like a deity over a world that he created from scratch. 

It was also a total lie. 

Sundance, contrary to popular belief, did not emerge solely from Weinstein’s decision to buy “sex, lies and videotape” at the festival in 1989 or…

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