A message from Bryan Wendorf in response to screening Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity From American Popular Culture at CUFF 26
At last year’s Chicago Underground Film Festival I made the decision, as Programmer and Artistic Director, to screen the film Dollhouse: The Eradication of Female Subjectivity From American Popular Culture. I want to publicly apologize to all who were harmed by this decision and for my silence until now.
Although it was not my intention to hurt the LBGTQ+ community or anyone else, I realize that this was the result. The decision to program the film came largely from recommendations and awards the film received at another festival. I was unaware of TERF ideology when I watched the film and as a result I misinterpreted the filmmaker’s intention until it was too late to respond appropriately and I failed to run the film past any trans people who could’ve helped me make a more informed judgement.
CUFF has always been willing to present films with controversial points of view but I recognize the important distinction between controversy and the deliberate dehumanization of a group of people. I recognize that the decision to program this film helped to perpetuate harmful narratives about the trans community. The delegitimization of trans identity puts an already highly marginalized group at further risk of real and material harm. CUFF does not wish to validate ideas that do this. I also recognize that my silence on this matter has made the situation worse and implied that I, and by extension CUFF, shared the filmmaker’s views or that I was indifferent to the concerns of the trans community. I realize that I let many of you down and I want you to know that I am learning and will do better in the future.
I appreciate everyone who has spoken up in good faith about this and the festival is working to address concerns about the selection process, provide greater transparency and take action to ensure a situation like this does not happen again. I’ve been proud of CUFF as a place where diverse filmmakers can screen together without being sequestered into programs according to their sexuality, race or other categories and it is important to me that going forward everyone feels assured that they are welcome at the festival.
I will make further statements soon about specific action plans.This will be an ongoing process and I won’t always get everything right but I am prepared to do the work I need to do to be better as an individual and work with others to make CUFF better as a film festival. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you have additional questions or concerns.
Love and compassion to you all,