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Arts and Entertainment

Cinefamily Founder Resigns Following Sexual Misconduct Allegations

Hadrian Belove at a Cinefamily screening. (Photo courtesy of Cinefamily via Flickr)
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Cinefamily founder and executive director Hadrian Belove resigned on Tuesday evening, a day after an email began circulating that alleged a culture of sexual misconduct at the beloved film nonprofit.

The email (the contents of which have now been widely shared on Facebook and Twitter) also accused a member of Cinefamily's board of sexual assault, and Cinefamily leadership of burying the allegations. Board member Shadie Elnashai has also since resigned.

The email also referenced a 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit brought against Belove by a former Cinefamily employee. Belove told LAist this morning that the accusations were untrue, and "related to an ongoing campaign of harassment and extortion."

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Belove characterized the email—which has led many to denounce the nonprofit theater on social media—as "a mixture of half truths and out right lies, filled with a lot of things that aren't true and aren't verifiable."

Cinefamily, which opened its doors on Halloween ten years ago, is known for its innovative, often idiosyncratic programming and the sense of community it fosters. "It was the first place I'd ever felt like I belonged, which is almost everyone's story there," one former employee told LAist. In interviews with more than a half-dozen former employees, Cinefamily was also described as a place lacking in boundaries, and clear cut lines between work and play—especially when the workplace was a venue where many employees often hung out off the clock.

"The lines were blurred, a lot," as one former employee put it. "There's celebrities coming in all the time, you get to write and talk movies. It's very cool. But it left a trail of sadness behind," another former employee said.

The 2014 sexual harassment lawsuit, which was settled, alleged a pattern of sexual harassment directed at the former employee by Belove, including an incident at a private Cinefamily screening with a crowd of about 150 people, including several Cinefamily board members, where Belove allegedly announced, "Here is [name]—Isn't she beautiful and stylish? If you are lucky maybe she will give you her telephone number," according to the lawsuit. Two former employees who were present at the screening corroborated to LAist that the incident occurred. "It was business as usual, just another silly thing said from the stage," one former employee recalled.

"The inappropriate comment was the first in a repeated pattern and practice by Belove of sexual harassment against the Plaintiff by, including but not limited to, making inappropriate comments about plaintiff's appearance and sexuality to plaintiff and to third persons, engaging in repeated unwanted and inappropriate touching of plaintiff's body, threatening plaintiff with losing her job if she did not comply with his repeated requests for private attention, obsessing over Plaintiff and overseeing and dictating her every move, telephoning and text messaging her at all hours of the night, questioning her about her private dating life and personal relationships, telling her that she was 'his person' and that he was 'jealous' of other men she spoke with," according to the lawsuit.

Belove told LAist that he was unable to comment on the lawsuit due to the nature of the settlement. "All I can say is that a court filing is not a statement of fact. It's just a series of allegations, and a settlement is not a confession," he said.

The woman who filed the lawsuit also alleged that in April of that year, Belove tried to "pimp her out' to a wealthy potential donor who wanted her to visit him in his hotel room," and that Belove physically attacked her a month later "when she would not give him the attention he demanded," according to the lawsuit. She alleges that when she complained to Cinefamily, they responded by "telling her it was her fault, forcing her to confront her harasser, and refusing to take any actions against Belove for his inappropriate behavior."

"It's been so difficult because we all love what the theater is capable of, so there's this added tragedy that this amazing thing that's meant to be a nonprofit for the community—to make L.A. a better place—was destroyed by some male egos, and people who think they can get away with it," one former employee told LAist.

"...While, my instincts and sense of justice is to fight to the last, I can’t see how this can continue. Like all good slander, there were just enough wisps of truth and just enough rumors to make it feel true," Belove said in an email announcing his resignation. "But don’t get me wrong, this email was malicious slander, plain and simple. So while I reject the accusations wholesale, I want to acknowledge that I had created enough of an atmosphere to allow this kind of vitriol to fester."

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"I do not know my future, or of the organization I love and have given my life too, and the many many close friends I have made," he continued. "It has always been a fragile thing—but with so many people who care, I believe it can survive this, with or without me. I hope so. I will support it any way I can for the rest of my life."