The producer of “Home Alone” and ”Mystic Pizza” is threatening the Los Angeles Jewish film festival after the festival’s director, Hilary Helstein, complained that Rosenfelt's documentary about child sex abuse in the haredi community, "Standing Silent,” amounts to a “witch hunt.”
Film Producer Threatens Jewish Film Festival Over Sex Abuse Documentary
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Scott Rosenfelt is mad and you should be, too.
The producer of “Home Alone” and ”Mystic Pizza” is threatening the Los Angeles Jewish film festival after the festival’s director, Hilary Helstein, complained that Rosenfelt's documentary about child sex abuse in the Baltimore Orthodox and haredi community, "Standing Silent,” amounts to a “witch hunt.”
The film features interviews with victims of sexual abuse by Baltimore-area Orthodox and haredi rabbis and was the subject of a feature article last week in the Washington Post. It is supposed to be screened at several U.S. Jewish film festivals this year.
But in September, Helstein emailed Jewish film festival directors, telling them that, while the film was well made, “Our committee felt with a community that reveres it’s [sic] rabbis this was not something they wanted to show.”
According to the JTA, Rosenfelt called the email the “most unprofessional act” he has seen in his 35-year career.
“The idea that a festival director would go behind the back of a filmmaker and do this gives me great pause to ever recommend your festival to anyone,” Rosenfelt wrote to Helstein on March 22. “As you know, I've produced films such as ‘Home Alone,’ so I know a couple of people in the business. I plan on letting EVERYONE I know to stay away from you and your festival, because you are clearly not someone who supports filmmakers.”
Rosenfelt concluded by calling Helstein “a disgrace to Judaism, and not only that, a disgrace to all humanity.”
In an interview with JTA, Rosenfelt stood by his comments, saying that Helstein was complicit in the kind of silence surrounding sexual abuse that his film aims to combat. Asked if he really felt Helstein was a disgrace to humanity, Rosenfelt said “Absolutely.”
Update 4:15 pm CDT – Emily Wax of the Washington Post did some more reporting on this story. Here's what she found:
…[The Helstein] email was not made public until last week during a March 20 screening of the film in Hartford. Steve Shaw, a member of the Hartford Jewish Film Festival, showed the film’s producer, Scott Rosenfelt, a copy of the Helstein email. Shaw wanted to use it during a Q and A session after the film to demonstrate that,“our rabbis in West Hartford not only endorsed showing the film, but they actually sponsored the entire evening,” Shaw said in a telephone interview with The Washington Post.
“I read a quote from the email at the Q and A to show that the response in other communities had not been as welcoming,” Shaw said.…
In an interview with The Washington Post, Rosenfelt said that he "went a little overboard with saying she was a disgrace to humanity. But unfortunately, whether she realizes it or not, anyone who does this is perpetuating the problem that victims have had for years in telling their stories. The constant refrain is protect the rabbis or perpetrators first and deal with the victims second. The film is about the need for a paradigm shift in addressing the issue.”…