The first episode of HBO’s four-part documentary series “Allen v. Farrow ”debuted Sunday night, offering a fresh look at Dylan Farrow’s decades-old sexual abuse allegations against filmmaker Woody Allen, his foster father.
When Ms Farrow was 7, she accused Mr Allen of sexually assaulting her at the family’s Connecticut country home on August 4, 1992. Mr Allen has long denied the allegations, which were at the center of a bitter battle for childcare. between Mr. Allen and Mia Farrow, the powerful Hollywood couple who have made 13 films together.
Mr. Allen’s relationship with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn is also at the heart of the series. About seven months before Dylan Farrow said her father assaulted her, Mia Farrow discovered nude photographs of then-freshman Ms Previn at the university in Mr Allen’s apartment.
Beginning in 1992, there were several years of focused media attention on the family amid the custody battle and investigations by authorities in response to Dylan Farrow’s account. Mr Allen has long argued that Mia Farrow trained Dylan to make the allegations after learning of his relationship with Ms Previn, whom he married in 1997. Although a Connecticut state attorney refused to prosecute Mr. Allen, saying he wanted to spare Dylan the trauma of a lawsuit, he said he believed she had been molested.
Almost three decades have passed since the accusations surfaced, but the convoluted saga has repeatedly come back and become the subject of debate – most recently during the #MeToo movement.
This series, created by documentary makers Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, and Amy Herdy, features lengthy interviews with Dylan and Mia Farrow, as well as Dylan’s siblings and family friends. It includes footage of Dylan Farrow at age 7 telling his mother, who is behind the camera, what she says her father did to her in August 1992 – a videotape that had never been released before. Letty Aronson, Mr Allen’s sister, who is currently handling publicity requests for him, declined to comment on the documentary.
This sequence does not appear in the first episode, which explores the beginnings of Ms. Farrow’s relationship with Mr. Allen and observations on how Dylan became the subject of his father’s “intense affection”.
Here’s a recap of what we saw on Sunday night.
‘Idyllic, most of the time’
The series opens at a 1992 press conference at the Plaza Hotel in New York City, in which Mr. Allen defends himself against the abuse allegations and accuses Mia Farrow of inciting them.
But the episode quickly moves away from the narrative of Mr. Allen, who was not on the series but whose perspective is often captured by audio clips from his recent memoir “Apropos of Nothing.” He turns to adult Dylan Farrow, now 35, who is seen leafing through a family photo album.
Texas-born, adopted baby Dylan Farrow recounts a ‘idyllic, most of the time’ childhood, describing what it was like to be the child of a famous Hollywood actress and director: Memories of stumbling around the movies backdrops like a child, being in private planes on family vacations, swimming in “chic” hotel pools – all of this is illustrated by home video footage shot by Ms. Farrow as her children were growing up.
But beneath the surface of this bustling, unconventional family – nine children, cared for by single movie parents – things were complicated.
Hollywood’s Powerful Couple
The episode looks back at the beginning of the romance between Mia Farrow and Woody Allen, from their first meeting at Elaine’s, the Manhattan restaurant, in 1979. Mrs. Farrow recalls how the couple turned on their lights from the windows of their apartment. , which were visible to each other from Central Park. The signal was a way of saying “I love you,” she said. Hanging a red towel by the window meant “I love you very much.”
Despite the fact that Ms Farrow already had seven children – three biologically with her then-husband André Previn and four of them adopted – she said she was okay with Mr Allen telling her that he had “no interest in children.”
But gradually Mr. Allen began spending more time with the children at the Connecticut home and his apartment in the city, forging a particularly strong bond with Moses Farrow, whom Ms. Farrow adopted after her divorce from Mr. Previn.
Growing the family
When Ms Farrow wanted to make the family even bigger, she said, Mr Allen told her that he still didn’t want to be responsible for his own child but that he “might be more sympathetic if he was a little blond. daughter. ”Ms. Farrow ended up adopting Dylan, who quickly became the subject of Mr. Allen’s affections. Two years later, Ms. Farrow had a son, Ronan Farrow, who was originally named Satchel. (Ms. Farrow a suggested later in a 2013 interview with Vanity Fair that Ronan may have been Frank Sinatra’s child, not Mr. Allen.)
In 1991, Ms. Farrow accepted a family dynamic that would shape the legal conflict in the years to come: Mr. Allen adopted Dylan Farrow and Moses Farrow.
A relationship “ too intense ”
The heart of the first episode is a series of interviews with members of the Farrow family and friends, some of whom have never spoken publicly, who say they witnessed behavior by Mr. Allen towards Dylan Farrow that they felt was inappropriate or made them uncomfortable.
Dylan Farrow said she had memories of lying down with her father – both in their underwear – and he wrapped her around her “very intimately”. Family friend Priscilla Gilman, who became close to the family while dating Matthew Previn, one of Mia Farrow’s eldest sons, recalled that she saw Mr Allen in this situation get out of bed in underwear. Ms Gilman, who often spent time with the children, said she had also seen Dylan Farrow sucking Mr Allen’s thumb. (Ms Gilman said Mr Allen told her that sucking her thumb calmed her daughter, but adult Dylan Farrow now sees a violation, recalling her father specifically told her how to do it.)
Mia Farrow’s sister Tisa Farrow said in an interview that she once saw Mr. Allen’s hand linger “suggestively” between Dylan Farrow’s buttocks when applying a screen solar.
Mia Farrow, who remembers seeing Mr Allen kneeling in front of their daughter or sitting next to her with her face on her knees, said she had at one point confronted what she had witnessed, saying she was not “comfortable with the way you handle her and look at her.” She said Mr. Allen got angry and ended up apologizing profusely. But then a respected psychiatrist from Ms Farrow’s apartment building, Ethel Person, called to tell him there was something ‘tramp’ about the way Mr Allen greeted Dylan Farrow. Mr. Allen then agreed to see a psychologist.
The psychologist said she saw Mr. Allen being “excessively intense” with Dylan Farrow. But, Ms Farrow told the filmmakers, the therapist didn’t believe the behavior was sexual – even though viewers or the child herself might perceive it as sexual.
Dylan’s Changing Behavior
In an interview with the filmmakers, Dylan Farrow said she loved her father but received “intense affection all the time”; people around her, including Ms Gilman and her brother Ronan, noticed that she often wandered away or tried to hide when Mr Allen called her or entered the room.
“Over time, Dylan went from being an extrovert and effervescent and chatty to her having that sadness and that quality withdrawn,” Mr. Farrow said in an interview with the filmmakers.
Mr Allen has denied ever having been sexually inappropriate or abusive towards Dylan Farrow, instead describing himself in his own writings as an initially reluctant father who, surprisingly, fell in love with his daughter and liked to shower her with affection. In part of her memoir which was included in the episode, Mr. Allen wrote, “I adored Dylan and spent as much time with her as possible since she was a child. I played with her, bought her endless toys, dolls, stuffed animals, my little ponies.
Then, in January 1992, came the discovery that changed everything. Ms Farrow said she went to Mr Allen’s apartment to retrieve a coat and found racy Polaroid photos of her college-aged daughter Ms Previn next to the phone.
Ms Farrow said she remembered putting the photos in her pocket and leaving, in shock. Upon returning home, she said she had confronted Ms. Previn. (Ms. Previn did not participate in this documentary.)
Dylan Farrow’s therapist advised his mother to tell the children about the photos, Mia Farrow said. She was reluctant, but she did, and Dylan Farrow said it was the first time she realized she might not be the only one receiving her father’s behavior, saying that ‘she thought to herself,’ Oh, it’s not just me. “