When film-makers Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick first met Dylan Farrow in January 2018, they had been skeptical about how a lot could possibly be added to the report seared within the public reminiscence of her household’s notorious division, arguably probably the most publicized and scrutinized case of alleged incest in current American historical past. The administrators behind a few of the decade’s most incisive documentaries on sexual assault and the cultures which enable and abet it, together with On The Report, The Searching Floor and The Invisible Warfare, had been conversant in the broad strokes of Dylan’s story: that in August 1992, at age seven, she claims that her adoptive father, the famous person director Woody Allen, sexually assaulted her in an attic. Allen denied ever molesting Dylan, and solid the allegations – in public and in an acrimonious, extremely scrutinized 1993 custody swimsuit towards Dylan’s mom, Mia Farrow – because the machinations of a scorned girl (Mia had just lately found Allen’s sexual relationship with adopted daughter Quickly-Yi Previn, then 21).
By 2018, the story had a polarized cementation in public reminiscence: both you believed Allen, as a lot of Hollywood appeared to till the #MeToo motion curdled curiosity in working with him, otherwise you believed Dylan and, by extension, Mia. However as they listened to Dylan recall her recollections and its ongoing trauma – an expertise she’d shared publicly in an open letter in 2014, then in a 2017 essay within the Los Angeles Occasions, then in a 2018 tv interview with CBS – the film-makers sensed that there was far more to the story than the vindicated he-said, bitter she-said narrative they’d absorbed within the 1990s.
The 2 had been impressed by “how sturdy [Dylan’s] interview was”, Dick informed the Guardian, and that she was keen to deal with “how a lot of her life had performed out within the public, and was debated within the public, and the way she was disbelieved”. Nonetheless, the duo weren’t positive that sufficient could possibly be discovered to warrant a deeper look right into a infamous case, till lead investigator Amy Herdy obtained court docket recordsdata from the 1993 custody trial, with a wealth of beforehand unseen particulars. “Because it grew to become extra apparent that there have been quite a lot of issues Amy Herdy was discovering, we wished to proceed exploring,” Ziering informed the Guardian.
The result’s Allen v Farrow, a lucid, exhaustively researched four-part HBO documentary sequence that evaluations in depth trails of documentation and private trauma with a fine-tooth comb. Over the course of 4 hours, Ziering and Dick parse by way of Herdy’s mountain of proof, from archival pictures to court docket paperwork, police investigation recordsdata to quite a few social employees’ notes. The sequence contains prolonged first-person interviews with Dylan and Mia, talking publicly about her romantic and artistic companion of 12 years for the primary time in a long time, in addition to Dylan’s brother, the New Yorker journalist Ronan Farrow, and quite a few cultural, psychological and authorized specialists.
The guiding intention was “to return and say, let’s unpack this, let’s perceive what’s occurring, and let’s perceive the biases that we’ve as a tradition and person that forestall survivors of incest from coming ahead and talking”, mentioned Dick. Though, no less than within the sequence, they don’t explicitly land on a conclusion for Allen v Farrow, the centering of Dylan’s story all however blares the decision of their investigation. (Allen and Previn didn’t reply to a number of requests for participation.)
The movie bears affected person, open witness to Dylan’s account, although Ziering, Dick and Herdy had been clear that doing so didn’t preclude investigative rigor. “This was not a collaboration or something like that along with her or the household,” mentioned Ziering. “It was actually an investigation,” one whose thoroughness finally satisfied reluctant members of the Farrow household to take part.
Mia was significantly reluctant to revisit the previous, and solely agreed to take part after particular requests from Dylan. “This isn’t one thing she was keen to return and revisit, for a number of causes,” mentioned Ziering, “and never one thing she felt comfy publicly trusting her story to, as a result of she’s gotten a really unfair presentation within the press up to now.” It was Herdy, a veteran trauma reporter who spearheaded the investigations for the pair’s earlier movies, who first launched Dylan to the administrators, and whose discovery of beforehand unseen court docket paperwork satisfied each Dylan and the film-makers to pursue the sequence.
“I had began my investigation with Dylan, treating her like a topic of an investigation and saying, ‘All proper, I want names, I want particulars, I want dates – you say that this occurred, assist me discover the proof,’” Herdy mentioned. The search took Herdy to Mia’s basement, the place she discovered pictures and video submitted to court docket; she then obtained and peered by way of hundreds of pages of court docket data (“eyeball-stabbing work”), in addition to hours of telephone conversations between Allen and Mia (he began recording her, then she recorded him; snippets culled from court docket proof are performed all through the sequence), and police data from separate investigations in Connecticut and New York.
A number of revelations seem damning for the Allen argument – quite a few baby psychologists discredit the re-traumatizing strategies used within the 1993 Yale-New Haven examine lengthy cited by Allen defenders as proof of his innocence, which claimed seven-year-old Dylan demonstrated “inconsistencies” over 9 interviews and solid doubt on Mia’s intentions. Newly uncovered recordsdata reveal that the New York social employee tasked with investigating the case believed Dylan’s testimony, and was suspiciously fired (a decide later discovered it to be an unfair dismissal and he was reinstated).
The sequence’ most explosive addition to the report are residence movies, recognized however not but seen by the general public, taken of Dylan by Mia within the days after the alleged assault, by which she describes (in accordance with Mia, unprompted) what occurred within the attic. The footage – Dylan, with a baby’s vocabulary, gesturing how “Daddy” touched her “non-public components” – is graphic and disturbing, and included solely on the particular behest of the now grownup Dylan. “The truth that we’ve that tape was a call made by an grownup girl permitting us to view this very painful, private, non-public a part of her baby self,” Herdy mentioned. The sequence depicts a number of baby psychologists, unassociated with the case, viewing the footage; all testifying to its consistency with their expertise with kids reporting sexual abuse.
After months of poring over element after element, and weaving collectively disparate strands of investigations, Herdy noticed a transparent image: “While you take a look at the data, the paperwork, the police investigation, and social employees’ investigations, and that’s plural, mixed with the statements of the themes that we’ve – all of that, in my view, factors to the truth that Woody Allen completely did molest Dylan.”
Allen continues to disclaim all allegations. “Despite the fact that the Farrow household is cynically utilizing the chance afforded by the Time’s Up motion to repeat this discredited allegation, that doesn’t make it any extra true at present than it was prior to now,” he mentioned in response to Dylan’s 2018 CBS interview. “I by no means molested my daughter – as all investigations concluded 1 / 4 of a century in the past.”
Although the film-makers quote liberally from his 2020 memoir, Apropos of Nothing, the sequence overwhelmingly presents the Farrow aspect. The fourth episode briefly addresses allegations towards Mia of bodily abuse, bullying and training, made by the one two siblings to say no participation, Previn and Moses. In a 2018 blogpost, Moses accused Mia of slapping him repeatedly as a baby, dragging bodily and emotionally disabled siblings down stairs, and “brainwashing”. (In the identical blogpost, he accused Dylan and Mia of mendacity, and claimed the practice set she remembered fixating on in the course of the alleged assault was a element added to make her story extra credible; a 1992 police sketch of the attic introduced within the sequence features a mannequin practice set observe). Mia Farrow denied Moses’s claims to the New York Occasions, as did Ronan Farrow, who rejects them once more within the sequence. Dylan Farrow, in a assertion posted on Twitter, referred to as them “half of a bigger effort to discredit and distract from my assault”.
In a 2018 interview with New York journal, Previn (together with Allen, who was current for a lot of the interview) mentioned that “[Mia] has taken benefit of the #MeToo motion and paraded Dylan as a sufferer”, and accused her adoptive mom of bullying and excessive favoritism. “It’s onerous for somebody to think about, however I actually can’t give you a pleasing reminiscence,” she mentioned of her time with Mia (Farrow and her different kids have additionally denied claims of abuse).
Ziering, Dick and Herdy mentioned these allegations had been pursued and investigated as any others within the sequence. “We don’t draw back from something,” mentioned Ziering. “If there’s one thing there, we’ll report. So we seemed into all of that, and introduced what we thought was acceptable, and what we had been capable of legally. And if we discovered one thing in any other case, we might’ve introduced it.” Herdy mentioned she pursued the claims by way of interviews with members of the family and all residing siblings save Previn and Moses, who declined interviews, and located that data of “a number of investigations by a number of totally different companies indicated that Mia was a really loving and attentive and caring mom”.
“I discovered no proof to help these claims, Herdy mentioned. “I discovered mounting proof that disputes these claims.” The concept that Dylan’s story was coached as “a vengeful act by an unhinged girl” is “not mirrored within the data”, she added. “That’s not mirrored within the interviews, that’s not mirrored anyplace apart from by [Allen’s] PR machine.”
The saga of Allen v Farrow will most likely stay divisive, not least due to the advantage of the doubt afforded to Allen by his legendary – although, given Amazon’s current reneging on their movie deal, waning – cultural standing. “When you will have a public determine who’s been revered for many years, and that reverence conferred him quite a lot of privilege, it additionally allowed us to make assumptions about different folks that now, on reflection, look actually fallacious and unfair, and have extreme penalties on their lives,” mentioned Ziering.
The film-makers mentioned they hoped for a “reckoning” over Dylan’s story and its dealing with for practically 20 years, in addition to better recognition for and willingness to confront circumstances of incest. “Taking these circumstances and exposing them to daylight cures an infection, and I believe that may assist folks heal,” mentioned Herdy. “It’s necessary for folks to understand that they’re not alone. I believe there’s a complete survivor neighborhood that’s going to be impressed by this sequence.”