Allen v. Farrow: a well-known story put in a new perspective
Whether you liked Woody Allen’s movies up until now or not this documentary series by HBO will make you never look at him the same as before.
The notorious relationship between Woody Allen and Mia Farrow and their family is being explored and told as a story, in a four-part documentary for HBO from March. Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, Oscar-nominated documentarians were directing the series which got the title “Allen v. Farrow”. The feature is a fascinating deep dive into a case that has been all over the media for almost 30 years, namely the accusation that Allen had sexually abused his adopted daughter, Dylan when she was 7 years old.
Allen has denied the allegation. A bitter custody battle followed and it was revealed later that Allen had been having a relationship with Farrow’s other adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn, who he eventually married.
New investigative work appears before the public, pieced together from intimate home-movie footage, court documents, police evidence, descriptive video- and audio tapes which were never heard before. Besides this new evidence there is exclusive, in-depth interviews on the subject with Mia Farrow, Dylan Farrow, Ronan Farrow, family friend Carly Simon, prosecutor Frank Maco, relatives, investigators, experts and other first-hand eyewitnesses. Many of these new bystanders are speaking publicly about the events for the first time.
HBO debuted the first episode of the series on 21st of February, with new parts airing on subsequent Sundays.
The first episode primarily serves as introduction, walking us through how Allen and Mia Farrow met in 1980. By then, Farrow had already built a large family via childbirth and adoption, and she recalls that Allen told her that he had not been interested in raising kids (although it was already 7 kids in the household). Then Mia adopted Dylan in 1985, shortly after she was born, and everything changed.
Allen immediately took a liking to Dylan, to the point where he often monopolized her time. And this continued even after Farrow and Allen’s biological son, Satchel (later known as Ronan) was born. In newly revealed interviews, Dylan remembers always being her father’s favourite and how his attention never let her go. Dylan’s brothers, Ronan Farrow and Fletcher Previn, confirm these memories, as do babysitters, friends, and more relatives. We can see a lot of home videos – made by Farrow, who was a dedicated documentarian of her children’s lives.
Those videos serve as the visual soundtrack to HBO’s docuseries. First the always happy children, including Dylan, running, reading or playing with each other or with family friends. Then the tone changes and we start to see limitless amount of film showing Allen and Dylan together. As someone describes how Allen would reportedly follow Dylan from room to room, the camera shows Woody following a young Dylan. A figure constantly on the sidelines of a home movie and it begins to feel very uncomfortable.
Other moments come in the first part of the series where you have to have strong guts to watch further. And probably it’s not getting any easier in the following episodes as well. And because the whole story is told from Dylan’s perspective, there probably won’t be any contrast to tone it down.
It’s part of the truth that Woody Allen continuously denied the accusations against him and that he has never been arrested or prosecuted over the allegation of sexual abuse by Dylan. But it made a huge impact on the industry around him. For example, his 2019 movie – “A Rainy Day in New York” with Timothee Chalamet, Jude Law, Elle Fanning, Rebecca Hall, Selena Gomez and others opened a path for actors to apologize in the media for working with Woody Allen.
Rebecca Hall publicly apologized to Dylan Farrow and she donated her salary from the film to charity, so did Timothee Chamalet, who also gave away his whole salary from the film to Time’s Up (fighting against sexual harassment), the LGBT Center in New York, and RAINN (the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network).
Sources: edition.cnn.com; decider.com; indiewire.com