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Outcry after Kevin Spacey named ‘guest of honour’ at Yerevan’s Golden Apricot Festival

26 June 2024
Actor Kevin Spacey. Image via social media.

The announcement that disgraced Hollywood actor Kevin Spacey would visit Yerevan as a guest of honour at the Golden Apricot Film Festival has sparked controversy in Armenia.

The festival announced that Spacey would attend the festival on Tuesday, in a post describing him as ‘one of the greatest artists of both stage and screen not only of his generation but, according to many, of all times’.

The post was later edited to read that Spacey’s visit was made possible ‘with the support of the festival’s general sponsor, the Yerevan Municipality’.

Hayk Kostanyan, press secretary to Yerevan’s Mayor, later shared the festival’s post, stating that his ‘favourite actor will be in the capital’ as a result of the municipality’s funding of the festival.

A municipality document dating back to 18 June shows that the municipality allocated ֏60 million ($155,000) to the festival as ‘financial support’.

Many have criticised the festival for inviting Spacey, who since 2017 has been accused by more than 50 people of sexual misconduct, including against a 14-year-old boy.

‘Why him?’ asked one Facebook user under the festival’s post, with another user suggesting a ‘deep discount because no one wants to be seen next to him’.


‘He assaulted young people. How can we honour him? He may be an artist but he harmed victims. This is not fair,’ wrote another user.

While Spacey acknowledged in a recent interview to ‘being too handsy’ on some occasions, and ‘touching [people] sexually in a way that I didn't know at the time they didn't want’, he has denied committing any crime.

Several criminal prosecutions against him have cleared him or been dropped.

Some online celebrated Spacy’s visit, with one commenter citing his acquittal as ‘cool’ and that ‘woke nonsense ended bad for the great actor’.

Andranik Shirinyan, Freedom House’s Armenia representative, criticised the announcement, saying that not all acts of violence entailed criminal liability. 

‘Its absence does not imply the absence of violence or a morally reprehensible act, especially when the violence was committed by someone in a dominant position against a minor, in this case a 14-year-old boy, who was in a much more vulnerable position than himself’.

Arusik Ohanyan, a gender expert pointed out that cases of sexual violence were very difficult to prove, ‘but just the fact that a person speaks calmly, that he did such a thing, is enough for you to stop assuming the role of his lawyer’.

Vardine Grigoryan, from the Helsinki Citizens' Assembly — Vanadzor, a local rights group suggested that many of the conservative Armenians who protested Elton John’s visit in 2018 due to his sexuality would not protest Spacey’s visit. ‘And the answer to the difference is very primitive: toxic masculinity and violence’, she wrote.

The Coalition to Stop Violence against Women released a statement expressing deep concern, calling on the festival organisers to cancel Spacy’s participation.

‘By “honoring” him, the Golden Apricot Film Festival is sending troubling signals to the public that the safety and dignity of sexual violence survivors are secondary issues, while talent and privileged position can make a person invulnerable,’ reads the statement.

Neither the Golden Apricot Film Festival nor Spacey have responded to the outpouring criticism.

Read in Azerbaijani on Meydan TV.
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