Lisa Petrucci runs Something Weird Video, the film distributor specializing in old exploitation films that hosted a secret screening at Fantastic Fest of Ed Wood's lost 1970 softcore pornographic comedy, Take It Out In Trade. The screening has been criticized for not letting people know about the content of the film before the event, potentially putting people into an uncomfortable situation, especially in light of the multiple sexual assault allegations swirling around this year's Fantastic Fest.
Fantastic Fest has been embroiled in scandal this year, following a series of allegations of sexual assault and cover-ups surrounding festival co-founder and Alamo Drafthouse owner Tim League, Ain't It Cool News founder and Fantastic Fest co-founder Harry Knowles, and former Alamo Drafthouse employee Devin Faraci.
In addition to the Ed Wood secret screening, a screening of The Square that ended with actor Terry Notary recreating a scene from the film live was also criticized for putting audiences in another uncomfortable situation. In a post to Instagram, attendee Kim Sherman noted that, in the wake of the sexual assault allegations, which all share the common theme of Alamo Drafthouse allegedly urging victims to stay quiet while protecting the aggressors, Fantastic Fest has lost the trust of its audience when it comes to safety.
"When it first started to escalate I thought 'this situation requires an audience to trust that this festival is looking out for its audience, and won't let this stunt get out of hand,'" Sherman wrote. "But as I listened to some of the men in the audience nervously laugh at the tension, and watched the actor cross more boundaries and become more authentically destructive/violent for the sake of a bit, I was stunned that the fest thought they could ask this of an audience right now."
Petrucci issued a statement printed by IndieWire about the screening. The statement talks about the cultural value of Wood's film and accuses some critics of prudishness, and goes on to claim that AGFA's Joe Ziemba gave audiences a detailed breakdown of the content at the beginning of the screening (after they were seated in the theater), to which she says "anyone who was offended could have left the theatre at any time."
Read her full statement below.
"On behalf of Something Weird, I stand behind AGFA's (American Genre Film Archive) decision to screen Ed Wood Jr.'s long lost film 'Take It Out in Trade' (1970) at the Secret Screening on Sunday, September 24. The film is historically important in that it was a long lost Ed Wood Jr. feature film, and the last one that he made before his death in 1978. Wood was reduced to making low-budget adult motion pictures and writing paperback smut. 'Take It Out in Trade' is a classic example of late 1960s sexploitation cinema. It's also outlaw cinema, much like a John Waters film. The laws at this time allowed full frontal nudity in movie theaters. What was shown to audiences at the Secret Screening was NOT hardcore pornography (by definition meaning there was no actual or even implied penetration or oral to genital contact). Any one of us has seen just as much nudity and simulated sexual activity on premium cable television network. What I find alarming and hypocritical is that nobody seems to bat an eyelash at gratuitous violence and gore, and in fact a few of the films featured at this year's Fantastic Fest are promoted for their ultra-violent over-the-top content. Which is fine if that's what you want to watch. But sadly the mere sight of a naked female being silly and seemingly having fun or in the throes of sexual pleasure makes some people uncomfortable.
I am a film historian and preservationist. I'm also a woman and a feminist. I have watched and written about hundreds of sixties sexploitation films, many directed by women like Doris Wishman and Roberta Findlay. In my opinion, choosing to be in one of these underground films during that time was a brave and feminist decision. What audiences witnessed yesterday was a pop cultural time capsule, chock full of changing attitudes towards sexuality and nudity. If anything, 'Take It Out in Trade' is a thematically progressive adult motion picture. There's a sexually androgynous married couple who are presented in a positive light. Even Ed Wood Jr. allows himself to be filmed in full drag (a state in which he was most his true self). And the actresses appear joyful and enthusiastic in their roles, not victimized. In fact the women get the last laugh in the end. I would put this film in the same category as 'Multiple Maniacs' and 'Pink Flamingos,' and those are cult arthouse classics.
AGFA's Joe Ziemba gave an excellent and heartfelt introduction to 'Take It Out in Trade.' He also explained to the audience what they were about to see. And anyone who was offended could have left the theatre at any time. So, it's not fair or right to accuse AGFA for insensitivity. This was hardly the case. I can vouch for these guys, they are some of the most thoughtful and genuinely sincere people I've ever worked with. They worked hard on this restoration and many people in the audience were thrilled and excited to be amongst the first to see this movie in over 40 years. And I would go as far as to say that the screening was historically significant and I am proud to be associated with AGFA and Alamo Drafthouse."
Alamo Drafthouse CEO Tim League has provided Bleeding Cool with a statement about the various sexual assault and harassment allegations. League apologized to "the women we have let down" and said that Fantastic Fest is building a new board of directors as part of an effort to make Fantastic Fest "a safe and welcoming environment for all of our staff and guests." Read the full statement here.