Over the weekend, the release of Guns Akimbo was put into question after its director Jason Lei Howden launched a vicious Twitter harassment campaign that appeared to target female writers of color. But despite widespread criticism of Howden’s behavior, which sparked verbal attacks and death threats against the writers he targeted, distributor Saban Films confirmed that they still intend to release Guns Akimbo this week as planned.
Guns Akimbo will still be released on February 28, 2020 as planned, Saban Films said in a statement following a whirlwind of controversy that unfolded mostly on Twitter. The distributor released a statement in response to Guns Akimbo director Jason Lei Howden’s targeted harassment of two film writers of color, Valerie Complex and DarkSkyLady, whom he accused of cyber-bullying another writer to the point of attempting suicide. People were quick to point out that Howden’s tweets, in which he rallied his followers against the writers, was cyber-bullying as well. Saban Films released a statement to IndieWire saying that they do not “condone, agree or share Mr. Howden’s online behavior,” but that his film Guns Akimbo will still be released:
“We are releasing ‘Guns Akimbo’ this Friday, February 28. While we do not condone, agree or share Mr. Howden’s online behavior, which is upsetting and disturbing, we are supportive of the film and all the hard work and dedication that has gone into making ‘Guns Akimbo.’”
Complex, who has contributed to /Film, was dissatisfied with Saban’s statement. “‘We’re sorry to all involved’ would have been nice,” Complex told /Film. “He is their representative. You usually apologize for your employees’ mistakes.”
Howden’s attacks on Complex, DarkSkyLady, and several other film journalists stem from a controversy that unfolded late last week involving Dilara Elbir, the editor-in-chief of a film site Much Ado About Cinema. A private message in which Elbir used a racist slur surfaced online and the blowback was immediate, with most of the Much Ado writers quickly exiting the site. Elbir posted a lengthy apology online but later followed that up with a series of emotional videos threatening suicide. Elbir was taken to the hospital, according to a friend via Twitter. Both the film website and Elbir’s videos remain offline.
The outpouring of compassion for Elbir’s situation, including from Moonlight director Barry Jenkins, soon turned once again to harassment, as Howden jumped into the conversation to first accuse the Much Ado writers of responsibility for Elbir’s situation (listing their names and handles in a tweet he later deleted) then accusing Complex and DarkSkyLady of bullying Elbir, accusations that Complex said were false as neither were online when Elbir posted her videos. Complex had become targeted by Howden after replying to his tweet that dismissed Elbir’s original use of a racial epithet, while DarkSkyLady earned his attention by publishing a piece on his behavior on Medium. Complex confirmed that she has been attacked online by both Howden as well as his followers.
ICYMI: , the director of Guns Akimbo, a new Daniel Radcliffe film, knowingly falsely accused Val and other female poc writers of bullying another woman (they did not). He was called out by men (me, Robert), But he decided to only target, smear and harass POC women https://t.co/eW8fWucGO1 pic.twitter.com/VXEwWTtP0x
— Rodrigo Perez Daddy ??? (@YrOnlyHope) February 23, 2020
“I don’t regret speaking up on injustices in the film community,” Complex added to /Film. “It may be wishful thinking, but I hope studios, publicist, and other news outlets are taking notice. Rather, I’m glad mainstream media is taking notice.”
Howden’s Twitter account has since been deactivated by the director. However, the Guns Akimbo account, which Complex said Howden is still operating and using to harass writers, is still open.
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