VIFF responds to allegations of abuse and sexual harassment against former employee
VANCOUVER -- The Vancouver International Film Festival has released a statement regarding social media allegations of inappropriate behaviour against a former employee responsible for programming.
“We wish to advise that the former programmer no longer works with VIFF,” the statement said. “While we will be retiring the Future//Present film series, our commitment to Canadian cinema remains as strong as ever.”
VIFF also said it cannot openly disclose details of its investigations due to privacy laws.
The statement does not name the former employee. The Future//Present series was overseen by Adam Cook for four years.
In detailed social media posts in recent days, multiple women have accused Cook of either sexually harassing them or being abusive towards them.
In November, the Sheffield Doc/Fest in the United Kingdom named Cook its senior programmer.
On Friday, less than one month after that announcement, the festival released a statement saying Cook had offered his immediate resignation.
The statement went on to say the festival “will continue to stand for our fundamental values, and as a platform for reflection, discussion and collective engagement.”
The statement made no mention of the allegations against Cook, who also sent a statement to CTV News.
"I handed in my resignation to Sheffield Doc/Fest last Thursday, effective immediately. The board accepted my decision,” said Cook. “This comes following some criticisms of past behaviour that have been discussed recently on social media. Amidst personal and legal concerns, I did not wish to become a distraction for the festival and offered my resignation with considerable regret."
Filmmaker Sophy Romvari wrote a lengthy Twitter post detailing an allegedly abusive relationship with Cook that lasted from 2014 to 2016.
Romvari accuses Cook of punching through a glass door as she stood on the other side, causing the pane to break and sending shards of glass into her face.
She also shared an image of the shattered bathroom door.
“Since our relationship ended in 2016, I’ve had to continue to work in the same community as him,” she said, explaining why she didn’t come forward with the allegations sooner. “At a certain point I didn’t want to put my own filmmaking career on the line any longer by exposing these details, especially within this small community which seemed to be invested in him. As a programmer, he was employed at three of the most prominent festivals here in Canada: VIFF, Hotdocs and TIFF.”
The Toronto International Film Festival also released a statement on Friday but did not name Cook directly.
“TIFF is aware of the social media conversation taking place within the filmmaking community about safe and ethical environments for filmmakers,” the statement says. “We are committed to fostering an environment that is ethical, welcoming, accessible, and inclusive for our staff, filmmakers, contractors, audience members, volunteers and guests.”
Paige Smith, another Vancouver filmmaker, claims she had an uncomfortable encounter with Cook.
“Last year, the same person sexually harassed me at a film festival party,” Smith shared in a post on Twitter. “I repeatedly said no, but he continually pursued me, not listening.”
Paige claims she was participating in the festival’s mentorship program for emerging filmmakers at the time, and that Cook was one of the industry mentors in the same program.
“This mentorship program was really important to me.” she said. “It was an opportunity to meet new people in my community and learn more about how to continue to make my films and get them seen.”
Smith goes on to claim that Cook’s alleged advances made her so uncomfortable that she left the industry party before she had a chance to network with the other filmmakers and festival programmers she had been hoping to meet.
“He was supposed to be mentoring me. He was supposed to be teaching me and helping me,” she wrote. “I worried that if I stayed he would continue to harass me. I felt gross, unsafe, and upset walking home that night.”
Cook did not immediately respond to an email reply to his statement asking him to clarify if the allegations being made against him are true.
None of the allegations against Cook have been tested in court and there is no indication he has been charged with any crime.