The Animation is Film Festival addressed concerns about Kobe Bryant‘s 2003 rape charge by removing him from its jury yesterday (October 17).
“After discussions with the various stakeholders of Animation Is Film, the decision has been made to remove Kobe Bryant from the 2018 jury," Eric Beckman, CEO of festival organizer GKIDS, said in a statement to The Associated Press. “We are a young organization and it is important to keep our collective energies focused on the films, the participating filmmakers and our festival attendees.”
The AP reports that an online petition demanded that GKIDS and its co-sponsors remove Bryant for his charges for allegedly raping a 19-year-old girl working at a Colorado hotel. Bryant professed his innocence and prosecutors dropped the charges when his accuser didn’t testify against him; she settled a separate civil suit against him in 2005.
From the petition:
We, women and allies of the animation community demand that accused rapist and sexual predator Kobe Bryant be removed from the Jury of [the] Animation is Film Festival. In light of the #MeToo movement, there has been little to no recourse for Kobe Bryant’s actions of sexual assault. We demand that GKIDS, Variety [magazine] and Annecy [Film Festival] revoke their complicity in enabling a sexual predator to continue a life without any accountability both as an individual and a celebrity. On its website, Animation is Film specifically states [that] one of their primary purposes is to "champion and support women filmmakers." It’s time to turn these words into action.
This removal constitutes the first major institutional action against Bryant since the #MeToo movement became mainstream. Similar criticism arose after "Dear Basketball," which he produced, won the Short Film (Animated) award at the Academy Awards in March.
“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 said in his own statement to The AP on the ouster. “I remain focused on changing the world in positive ways through diverse stories, characters and leadership, in order to inspire the next generation.”