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Dave Chappelle doc pulled by distributors amid controversy

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Now playing at your local theater: probably not Dave Chappelle’s documentary, which the comedian says is being dropped by film distributors after his recent Netflix comedy special sparked a fight with transgender activists.

The documentary, which chronicles the comic’s efforts to hold standup shows during the pandemic in his neighbor’s Ohio cornfield, has seen its invitations to film festivals rescinded, according to a video clip he posted to Instagram.

But Chappelle said he’s not going to let himself get canceled after the controversy surrounding his special on Netflix, “The Closer.” He’s taking matters into his own hands — and bringing the documentary to 10 cities across the country.

The outspoken comic said the documentary had scored invitations to major film festivals across the country, but now “nobody will touch this film.”

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

With his apparently self-financed tour, the film will now be accessible to people in the 10 cities — much to the chagrin of the activists who say Chappelle should be “canceled” for what they perceived as his anti-trans comments.

“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.”

Comedian Dave Chappelle
Comedian Dave Chappelle has been slammed for declaring in his special that “gender is a fact” and identifying himself as a “TERF,” or “trans-exclusionary radical feminist.”
ALEX EDELMAN/AFP via Getty Images

Chappelle praised Netflix and its co-CEO for standing by him despite the controversy.

“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 that could be heard in the Instagram video that he posted.

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.

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

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

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.

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 the Netflix building in Los Angeles, California, to protest the company for suspending a trans worker.
Al Seib / Los Angeles Times/Polaris

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 with in 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.
(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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