Animation film fest rescinds Kobe Bryant invite after outcry

Joann Johnston
October 18, 2018

Eric Beckman is the CEO of the organization behind the Animation Is Film Festival.

Kobe, of course, won an Academy Award for his "Dear Basketball" short. and seemed to be completely embraced by Hollywood.

In 2003, Bryant was charged with raping a 19-year-old hotel employee.

The ANIMATION IS FILM Festival, which aims to "fill a gap in the USA market by establishing a world-class animation festival on par with the major events in Europe and Asia", was launched in 2017 by independent animation distributor GKIDS, the Annecy International Animation Film Festival, and Variety magazine.

"Although I truly believe this encounter between us was consensual, I recognize now that she did not and does not view this incident the same way I did", Bryant said at the time.

An online petition published on Change.org started making rounds last week, urging people in the arts, as well as patrons, to make a stand against "toxic, violent behavior towards women".

The petition had gained 204 signatures at the time of writing. "Keeping Kobe Bryant on the jury sets a precedent of lenience for sexual criminals and further undermines the visibility and respect that victims of harassment and assault deserve", the petition continues.

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"This decision further motivates me and my commitment to building a studio that focuses on diversity and inclusion in storytelling for the animation industry", Bryant's statement said.

Organizers at the "Animation Is Film Festival" in Los Angeles, which runs from October 19 to 21, announced the decision to take Bryant off the jury on Wednesday. She later refused to testify against Bryant, so the charges were inevitably dropped.

They demanded that GKIDS, which produces the event, remove him from the jury citing that one of the fest's "primary purposes is to champion and support women filmmakers".

Eric Beckman, the CEO of GKIDS, addressed the complaints and said that the stakeholders made a decision to "drop Bryant to keep its focus on films".

Following his victory, as is customary for Oscar winners, the Academy's Short Films and Feature Animation Branch approved Bryant's membership.

The former Lakers star, who founded animation company Granity Studios, released a statement saying he was honored to be invited and remains "focused on changing the world in positive ways".

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