Editor’s note: This article discusses suicide, a suicide attempt and painful racial epithets.
In the lead up to a film’s release, the director normally has one job—promote. These filmmakers will be interviewed by countless outlets and discuss every aspect of their project in the hopes that moviegoers will buy a ticket and check out the film. But in the case of now-notorious filmmaker Jason Lei Howden, the man behind the upcoming Daniel Radcliffe-starring actioner, “Guns Akimbo,” the director made headlines in the days leading up to his movie’s release by inserting himself into— and deeply exacerbating and inflaming—an already painful, distressing and complicated social media debacle and subsequently harassing female film critics in its aftermath. An interesting strategy, to say the least. And a strategy that put Saban Films in a tough spot.
To quickly recap what transpired over the last several days (with some specific names being withheld for sensitivity issues), this whole ordeal began when a conversation leaked on Twitter that included the white female editor for the film website Much Ado About Cinema using the N-word. As you might expect, this prompted much-justified anger, hurt and outrage, including various People of Color, many of them from the world of Film Twitter, attempting to hold her accountable for her painful words. This online ordeal led to the staff of Much Ado resigning en masse, and the editor releasing a series of videos where she mentions attempting suicide due to the situation.
Enter filmmaker Jason Lei Howden.
The “Guns Akimbo” filmmaker, through no provocation of any kind, insinuated himself into the discussion by tweeting directly at various female film critics—including Playlist contributor Valerie Complex — and non-binary Medium writer Dark Sky Lady, who commented on the original situation and accused them of “bullying” the editor in question, leading to the suicide attempt. He then went on to share the names and social media accounts of a series of film critics, mostly women of color, who he saw responsible for the suicide attempt, and in the process accusing several of them of being “attempted murderers.” The filmmaker went off about “woke cyberbullies,” calling some folks “disgusting” and “trolls.”
Eventually, as the situation dangerously escalated and Saban Film and Howden’s PR were alerted to the intensifying drama and the filmmaker’s wild and defamatory accusations, Howden deleted his Twitter account. The abuse and harassment, however, continued from the official “Guns Akimbo” Twitter account, leading many to believe that the director was hiding behind the official account to continue his tirade. After a while, the tweets stopped and Howden continued to keep his personal account deactivated (though many allege he continues to harass on a burner Twitter account called “Fuck Journos” dedicated to defending Howden’s actions, and smearing the journalists within this story—conveniently activated after the original Twitter account was deactivated).
The situation prompted many film sites to pull any promotion for “Guns Akimbo,” including holding off posting reviews. Many also wondered if the film’s distributor, Saban Films, would pull the release of the film, given the actions of the director.
In a now-deleted tweet, Howden did eventually withdraw his contentious remarks, saying (via Daily Beast), “Just to set the record straight, my posts were only meant to be about bullying.”
“Racism is not acceptable in any context,” he added. “I respect @MyDarkSkyLady and @ValerieComplex’s work but not bullying.”
Howden also explained that his mother killed herself as a result of bullying, “which I didn’t know about until it was too late. To see others doing the same is incredibly painful and unnecessary. #GunsAkimbo was about putting a torch to online bullying. Ironic. I’m sorry to everyone I have offended, that was not my intent.”
Saban Films released a statement about the situation:
“We are releasing GUNS AKIMBO this Friday, Feb 28th. While we do not condone, agree or share Mr. Howden’s online behavior, which is upsetting and disturbing, we are supportive of the film and all the hard work and dedication that has gone into making [it].”
As of this writing, Howden has still deactivated his Twitter account and the “Guns Akimbo” Twitter account has been wiped clean of any of the controversial tweets. The film is still scheduled for a limited and VOD release this Friday. Representatives for Radcliffe and Howden did not respond to The Playlist’s requests for comment.