On February 21, in the United States, the first part of a four-part documentary on the allegations of sexual abuse against Woody Allen was broadcast, those that date back to the early 1990s and concern Dylan Farrow, the director’s adopted daughter. The documentary is titled Allen v. Farrow, was produced by HBO and features a reconstruction described as downright guilty by television critics: Allen he commented saying that its authors “have no interest in the truth.”
The one at the center of the documentary is one of the best known, intricate and debated stories of sexual assault allegations in the history of American entertainment. It began in 1992, when the relationship between Allen and Mia Farrow, the famous actress and Dylan’s adoptive mother, ended. Allen and Farrow had been together for twelve years and, while not living together, had three children: two adopted children, Dylan (age 7 at the time) and Moses Farrow (age 14), and a biological one, Ronan Farrow (age 5). Mia Farrow broke up with Allen after discovering that he was having an affair with Soon-Yi Previn, another of her adopted daughters, then in her 20s. Soon a tough legal battle began between Farrow and Allen for custody of Dylan, Moses and Ronan, because the children’s pediatrician had reported Allen to the police accusing him of raping his seven-year-old daughter.
The first episode of Allen v. Farrow begins at about this point, with images of a press conference Allen held in 1992, at the Plaza Hotel in New York, to defend himself against allegations of sexual abuse and accuse Mia Farrow of having instigated her daughter to accuse him, convincing her that things had happened that never happened.
Two separate investigations into the indictment were conducted, not in a dedicated legal proceeding but within the custody lawsuit. The trial judge assessed that there was not enough evidence to support Dylan Farrow’s allegation but assigned Mia Farrow custody of the child and her siblings because, based on the evidence brought at the trial, she thought Allen’s behavior towards of his daughter had always been inappropriate.
In Allen v. Farrow Allen is not interviewed: his version, in a sense, is included only through archival recordings and with the reading of some passages of About nothing, the autobiography published last year. To be interviewed are, among others, Dylan, Mia and Ronan Farrow – who in 2018 signed a contract with HBO for the production of a series of investigative documentaries. It was announced that in one of the episodes of Allen v. Farrow will be shown a video, so far never released in public, in which Dylan at the age of 7 tells his mother about the abuse he would suffer. However, it is not part of the first episode, which is mainly about the twelve years in which Mia Farrow and Woody Allen had a relationship and the relationship between the director and Dylan in his early childhood.
Among the interviewees were many friends of the Farrow family, such as Mia’s sister Tisa Farrow and writer Priscilla Gilman, who said she witnessed various behaviors of Allen deemed inappropriate towards Dylan when she was dating Matthew Previn, one of the older children than Mia Farrow. As an example, he cites the time when he saw Allen get out of a bed where he was with his daughter wearing only his underwear, and other occasions when the child sucked her father’s thumb.
Allen was never involved in a criminal trial regarding the allegations and his career was not damaged until 2017, when with the spread of the #MeToo movement – also sparked by Ronan Farrow’s articles on former film producer Harvey Weinstein – he went back to talking about the accusations. Since then, many actors and directors have distanced themselves from Allen, apologizing for working with him in the past and refusing to do so in the future: Timothée Chalamet, Colin Firth and Rebecca Hall, among others. In 2019, Amazon refused to release Allen’s film A rainy day in New York, breaching a contract and facing a lawsuit. Last year Hachette, the publisher who was supposed to publish About nothing in the United States, it gave up following the protests of dozens of its employees against Allen and the book – then let out from a small publishing house that publishes texts considered controversial.
Allen and Soon-Yi Previn (who has been his wife since 1997) commented on the release of the first episode of Allen v. Farrow with a statement toHollywood Reporter in which they accuse the documentary’s authors of having “surreptitiously collaborated with the Farrow to create a whip full of falsehoods.” They said they were contacted to give their version of events just two months ago and only had two days to respond, which they refused to do. “As has been known for decades, these accusations are categorically false. Various agencies investigated the times and found that whatever Dylan Farrow was led to believe, there was no abuse. It is sadly unsurprising that the network broadcasting this documentary is HBO, which has a production deal and working relationship with Ronan Farrow. “
So far it is not known if and when Allen v. Farrow will be broadcast in Italy, while in the United States the other episodes will be broadcast in the next three weeks.