Dave Chappelle doc pulled by distributors amid controversy

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Dave Chappelle says his documentary is now being scrapped by distributors amid the controversy surrounding his latest Netflix special, “The Closer,” which sparked accusations of transphobia.

Film festival invitations to show the film, which chronicles the outspoken comic’s efforts to hold stand-up shows in his neighbor’s cornfield in Ohio during the pandemic, have been pulled, Chappelle said in a video clip posted to Instagram.

To circumvent the film festivals, the documentary, which was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steve Bognar, will instead be screened on a tour of 10 cities — including New York, San Francisco and Indianapolis, Chappelle said.

“This film that I made was invited to every film festival in the United States and some of those invitations I accepted,” Chappelle said in the video on Instagram.

“[When] this controversy came out about ‘The Closer,’ they began disinviting from these film festivals and now, today, not a film company, not a movie studio, not a film festival, not nobody will touch this film.

“Thank God for Ted Sarandos and Netflix. He’s the only one that didn’t cancel me yet,” he said to loud cheers from the audience.

Ted Sarandos
Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has stuck by the company’s decision to host “The Closer.”
Stephane Cardinale – Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images

“I desperately want people to see this movie but I understand why investors would be nervous,” the irreverent funnyman said. 

“You will be able to see this movie in its entirety and you can see what they’re trying to obstruct you from seeing and you can judge for yourself.”

In “The Closer,” released earlier this month, Chappelle declared “gender is a fact” and identified himself as a “TERF,” or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist,” sparking immediate backlash, including from Netflix employees who walked off the job last week.

The show, Chappelle’s sixth and final big-bucks deal with Netflix, was quickly blasted as “transphobic” by critics.

A man attends a rally in support of the Netflix transgender employee walkout "Stand Up in Solidarity" to protest the streaming of comedian Dave Chappelle's new comedy special.
A man attends a rally in support of the Netflix transgender employee walkout “Stand Up in Solidarity” to protest the streaming of comedian Dave Chappelle’s new comedy special.
REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni/File Photo
Protesters gather outside of the Netflix building in Los Angeles, California to protest the company for suspending a trans worker over a Twitter thread.
Protesters gather outside of the Netflix building in Los Angeles, California to protest the company for suspending a trans worker.
Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/Polaris

Earlier this month, Netflix suspended a trans senior software engineer, Terra Field, who slammed Chappelle for his humor about trans people in a viral Twitter thread.

The company later said Field was suspended not for the tweets but instead for barging in on an executives-only meeting, along with two others.

Field has since been reinstated “after finding there was no ill-intent” in her attendance, she posted.

Meanwhile, Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos has stuck by the company’s decision to host the show — but admitted last week that he “screwed up” in the way he communicated the decision to company staff.

In emails to Netflix staff earlier this month amid the backlash, Sarandos, who’s also the company’s chief content officer, said the company would not take down the show.

“What I should have led within those emails was humanity,” Sarandos told the Wall Street Journal. “I should have recognized the fact that a group of our employees was really hurting.”

“We have articulated to our employees that there are going to be things you don’t like,” Sarandos said.

Producer Cheryl Rich joins protesters outside the Netflix building in  Los Angeles in protest of  Dave Chappelle's Netflix special.
Producer Cheryl Rich joins protesters outside the Netflix building in Los Angeles in protest.
(AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes

“There are going to be things that you might feel are harmful. But we are trying to entertain a world with varying tastes and varying sensibilities and various beliefs, and I think this special was consistent with that,” he added.

Standup comedy is “designed to stir up emotions,” he said, adding that “sometimes inclusion and artistic expression bump into each other.”

Part of the comedy special featured Chappelle’s recounting of his friendship with late trans comedian Daphne Dorman, whose family described Chappelle as an “LGBTQ ally.”



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