American University of Armenia disinvites Kevin Spacey amid controversy

Golden Apricot International Film Festival hosts a Rendez-vous with Kevin Spacey at Cinema House in Yerevan, Armenia (CivilNet/Ani Balayan)

The American University of Armenia (AUA) has disinvited actor Kevin Spacey from an event that was supposed to take place on Tuesday on its campus after a student petition demanding the university to cancel the visit.

The event, a “rendez-vous” with the Oscar-winning American actor, who has for years been shunned by Hollywood after facing several allegations of sexual abuse, was part of the programming for the annual Golden Apricot International Film Festival in Yerevan. The event took place in Yerevan’s Cinema House instead.

Upon finding out their university was to host Spacey, AUA students organized a petition and, if the event was not canceled, planned to stage a protest in objection to the actor’s visit.

The petition read, “We are deeply concerned and disappointed over the University’s decision to provide a platform for a meeting with Kevin Spacey,” adding, “This sends a troubling message to survivors of sexual assault and, more broadly, to the students, faculty, and community.”

The students concluded by writing, “The meeting would not only harm AUA’s reputation in Armenia and worldwide but also serve as a great disrespect to all those fighting tirelessly before and since the #MeToo movement.”

In response, AUA administration canceled the event, citing concerns that “a substantial number of AUA community members would be deeply offended were the event to proceed” and adding that the University has the right to refuse to host events that do not uphold its “core values.”

Although conceding he has been “too handsy” or acted inappropriately in the past, Spacey has denied the allegations of sexual assault which emerged in 2017 from over 50 accusers, including allegations of sexual abuse of children, saying they are fake or exaggerated. Spacey has since been found “not guilty” or acquitted of all crimes in several high-profile cases.

Golden Apricot is one of the most prestigious film festivals in the region, and this year it chose to feature Spacey as its guest of honor. The decision has sparked controversy among civil society and many others in Armenia, who criticize the film festival organizers for inviting him. Adding to the controversy is the fact that Yerevan’s municipal government had funded Spacey’s visit.

For their part, both Yerevan municipality and the film festival’s organizers have defended their decision to invite the actor, the latter stating that Golden Apricot is “deeply convinced that it is a myth that a good artist is the same as a virtuous man.”

By Mane Berikyan

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