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Actress/director Greta Gerwig on Hollywood assault scandals: ‘We helped build the culture that allowed it’

Charles Ealy
Greta Gerwig, director of the film "Lady Bird," walks the red carpet at the Paramount Theatre during opening night of the Austin Film Festival on Oct. 26. Scott Moore for American-Statesman

Greta Gerwig, who was in Austin over the weekend to screen her new movie, “Lady Bird,” at the Austin Film Festival, has a thoughtful take on the recent controversies surrounding Hollywood executives and sexual assaults and harassment.

During an interview with the Austin American-Statesman at AFF, she said that her favorite movie from last year was “Toni Erdmann,” from writer/director Maren Ade.

In that movie, the main character, a young woman who’s trying to make her way in the modern business world, puts up with lots of workplace harassment and discrimination.

Gerwig says she finds the recent revelations surrounding Harvey Weinstein and others “incredibly disturbing, sad, really heartbreaking” because it happens “to young people who are so enthusiastic about movies and just looking to get their foot in the door.”

“And when that passion is exploited, it makes me sick,” Gerwig says. “It feels like films and art should be our sanctuary. Yes, movies are a business, and it’s rough-and-tumble, but … that passion and excitement for an art form should never be co-opted into anything else. Honestly, I’m just glad we’re talking about it, and I really hope that it’s a moment of change, and that everyone takes responsibility.”

The last three words of that statement are a reference to the writings of the late Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, “who I like very much,” Gerwig says. “He says that in a free society, if some are guilty, then everyone is responsible, and I think that’s true.”

Gerwig’s mention of the rabbi sent me to the internet, where I found the original quote to which she refers.

It goes this way: “Morally speaking, there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the suffering of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty, but all are responsible.”

Gerwig, by the way, went to Catholic school and isn’t Jewish -- not that such a thing should matter when respecting the words of someone from another faith. 

“We have to look at what we’ve condoned, and what we’ve allowed,” Gerwig says, “because not everyone did something heinous, but we helped build the culture that allowed it.”


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