Ex-Danish film company boss embroiled in harassment claims
By JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press
COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A film production company co-founded by Danish director Lars von Trier has asked Danish officials to help investigate after several women accused its former chief executive of sexual harassment and allowing a culture of bullying in the workplace.
The production studio, Zentropa, said it was organizing an internal probe after “serious charges have been raised” against Peter Aalbaek Jensen, according to a letter by Zentropa’s management to its partners that was obtained Wednesday by The Associated Press.
Aalbaek Jensen, an outspoken provocateur known for stunts such as posing naked before photographers at the Cannes film festival, stepped down as Zentropa’s CEO last year but has remained as an employee.
Nine women — all former Zentropa employees — have spoken out against Aalbaek Jensen. They told the Politiken newspaper on Nov. 10 that he had slapped their behind, groped women at work and made sexual noises while standing behind women who were on the phone. He also reportedly ordered interns working at Zentropa to take the temperatures of his pigs at his private farm.
The company said it would invite Denmark’s Working Environment Authority to have “a professional assessment of our workplace.” The government agency confirmed to the AP it had been contacted by Zentropa Tuesday, but declined to say when an inspection would take place.
“We have all been part of a culture that we didn’t consider infringing or systematic while it existed,” Zentropa’s letter said. “It has become clear that it has not been a good culture for all of us and it must be changed.”
It said Aalbaek Jensen, 61, no longer has any say in its day-to-day leadership, adding that he has been banned from speak publicly on behalf of Zentropa or being in charge of interns working at the company.
Conclusions of the internal investigation are expected by Nov. 20.
Aalbaek Jensen has told the Politiken newspaper that he had no recollection of some of the alleged incidents but said they “probably happened.” He said he has “no interest in submission and humiliation” but “is interested in challenging boundaries, all the way up to the red line.”
He added “we are all sinners,” and “it is not that I apologize for all my actions. But I stand by them.”
On Wednesday, he told Denmark’s TV2 channel: “I have been completely muzzled.”
“As long as I choose to be an employee in Zentropa, I have to do as the management says,” he added. He was not available for comments.
Aalbaek Jensen co-founded the company in 1992 with von Trier, who has not been directly accused. The director is known for making provocative movies, and Zentropa produced many of them, including “Dogville,” ”Dancer in the Dark” and “Antichrist.”
Zentropa also briefly produced pornographic films, primarily made for a female audience, although the films did not make money and that production was shut down in 2001.