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November 14, 2017

Zentropa Respond To Sexual Harassment Allegations: “To Give Or Receive A Smack” Will No Longer Be Part Of Company Culture

We’re seen a variety of responses from those accused of sexual harassment and assault over the past few weeks ranging from contrition to defiance, with some threatening to sue their victims. And then there’s co-owner of production company Zentropa, Peter Aalbaek Jensen. One of the stakeholders of the Danish film and television giant, along with Lars von Trier, he remained unapologetic in the wake of allegations of systemic degradation and sexual harassment at the company.

“My future actions will reveal whether I decide to follow the new policy,” Jensen boldly stated, adding: “There have been plenty of times when I’ve been over the top or gone too far. And I stand by that fully. But the question is whether you are an adored leader or not. And I am an adored leader.”

Well, perhaps feeling blowback, a more measured but no less strange response has officially come down from Zentropa CEO Anders Kjærhauge and the company’s management. One on the one hand, they promise change, but on the other, they still seem somewhat defensive about the company culture that allowed this behavior to take place. Here’s their full statement (via Screen Daily):

Zentropa’s management and Peter Aalbæk Jensen have met regarding how Zentropa’s management wants the working environment and the social conditions to be at Zentropa. An agreement has been reached and the management will issue a set of guidelines for the company’s working environment henceforth. All employees are subject to these regulations and will be called upon to respect them.

We want to be a company with room for diversity where people are at liberty to be original and different. A place where structure and chaos go hand in hand and where community and hard work enables us to elevate film production into a league of its own.

It will not be a part of Zentropa’s culture to give or receive a smack as neither reward nor punishment, regardless whether all parties involved experience such actions as fun. The company culture at Zentropa will continue to be colourful and alternative, but we do not wish to violate anyone’s rights or insult anyone.

Through dialogue with all our employees, we will encourage sincerity and frankness about personal boundaries and needs as well as respect for the boundaries and needs of others. That way we can create a broad and inclusive workplace. We wish to carry on in Zentropa’s spirit with respect for the individual.

If anyone formerly, currently or in the future experiences that it is unpleasant to be at Zentropa on account of aspects, which pertains to the working environment or the working culture, we happily invite a dialogue about how we may improve or, if it already happened, how we could have been better at assuming responsibility in that particular incident. All of us have a responsibility and we will be much clearer about that moving forward.

Together with our employees and interns we will create a set of guidelines for our working culture and working environment so that it is clear to everyone what is acceptable and what is not.

We have no further comments at this time.

Management
Anders Kjærhauge, Rikke Ennis, Sisse Graum Jørgensen, Louise Vesth

It’s a bit strange that of all the unpleasant experiences that were pointed out by former employees of Zentropa, “to give or receive a smack” is the one that gets singled out here. Maybe I’m reading it wrong, but it seems to imply this was regular behavior, along with the suggestion that some people liked it, which is why it continued. Even if the company doesn’t change, the world around them has, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can — or are willing — to adapt.

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