Astroworld film sets for release despite concerns from lawyers

The experiences of panicked concert-goers who could not breathe and had no clear path to escape a massive turnout of audiences at last year’s deadly Astroworld music festival in Houston, can be seen in a documentary set for release Friday.

But attorneys for Live Nation, who are being accused of their role as promoters of the festival, say they are worried that publicity for the documentary, “Concert Crush: The Travis Scott Festival Tragedy,” could “pollute the jury pool.” A gag order has been issued in the case, but Live Nation’s lawyers say a lawyer filing lawsuits in connection with the tragedy also co-produced the documentary.

Charlie Minn, the director of the film, said he believes he has made a balanced and honest film that seeks to show the audience what happened.

“My job is to make the most true, honest, sincere documentary from the victim’s point of view … We need to know about these stories to prevent it from happening again,” Minn told The Associated Press.

About 500 lawsuits have been filed after the Nov. 5 concert under the head of Scott, a popular rapper. Ten people died and hundreds more were injured in the massive crowd. Scott is also charged.

The documentary, which opened in 11 Texas cities including Austin, Dallas and Houston, includes interviews with several people who survived the crowd surge. The film also has mobile videos made by concert goers in which people can be heard several times for help.

“It’s hard to explain to friends and family what we saw and what we actually went through and I think (the documentary) will give a lot of people the opportunity, if you weren’t there, to understand,” said Frank Alvarez , who attended the concert but does not appear in the film.

The film highlights what concertgoers experienced and what led to the tragedy, said Minn, who also made documentaries about the deadly shooting in 2018 at a suburban Houston high school and violence along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The film suggests that Scott could have done more to prevent the circumstances that led to the victims, but Minn said it was not a “hit for Travis Scott”. He said it also questions whether others, including Live Nation and Houston police, could have done more to improve security or respond more quickly to the danger. Minn said Scott, Live Nation and Houston police refused to be interviewed for the documentary. Houston police are investigating the disaster.

In a report released this month, a task force created by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott discovered issues with permits for such events and called for “clearly outlined triggers” for stopping such a show.

Attorneys for Live Nation expressed their concerns in a letter this month to State District Judge Kristen Hawkins, who is handling all preliminary cases in the lawsuits.

“The involvement of prosecutors’ lawyers in the film, and the publicity that the filmmakers and producers are trying to generate for it, raises significant issues about efforts to smear the jury pool,” Neal Manne and Kevin Yankowsky, two of Live Nation’s Advocates, written in the letter.

But the lawyers did not ask Hawkins to take specific actions regarding the documentary.

Manne and Yankowsky did not respond to a request for comment. Live Nation has said it is “heartbroken” by what happened, but has denied responsibility.

Scott’s lawyers said in an email Thursday that they did not know if he had seen the documentary, referring to the concerns raised by Live Nation when asked if they had any problems with it.

“Mr. Scott remains focused on his philanthropic work in his hometown of Houston and in communities with lower incomes of color throughout the country, both of which are long-term efforts,” his lawyers said.

Cassandra Burke Robertson, a law professor at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, said she would be shocked if the judge took action on the documentary because of concerns about the First Amendment, even with the gag order.

“I think the public interest here in investigating what happened and preventing similar tragedies in the future, that’s a really big interest. That’s probably the interests of the particular outcome of that particular lawsuit,” “said Robertson.

Brent Coon, a lawyer representing some 1,500 concertgoers interviewed in the documentary, said he did not think the film would affect the ability to choose an impartial jury if the case goes to trial, which can take years away.

“I do not think a lawyer in this case could create the flames much to change … what the public perception of all this will be,” Coon said.

Robertson, who is not involved in the lawsuit, said the fact that one of the film’s co-producers, Rick Ramos, represents concertgoers who have filed lawsuits, could raise ethical concerns. It was unclear how Ramos financially benefited from his involvement in the documentary.

Ramos declined to comment Thursday.

“I personally would not co-sponsor anything like that while awaiting civil litigation. I do not think there is anything wrong with it. It’s just something I would not do,” Coon said.

Minn said the questions about Ramos’ participation were valid, but he never hid his involvement.

“People need to watch the movie and judge it for what it is,” Minn said.

-By JUAN A. LOZANO Associated Press

Astroworld film sets for release despite concerns from lawyers

Source link Astroworld film sets for release despite concerns from lawyers

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