The New Harvey Weinstein Doc Is A Crucial Reminder Of What's Still Happening

Photo courtesy of BBC Pictures
For a man whose movie empire was built on elaborate productions, intricately plotted storylines and stylised set-ups, it's ironic that the nail in his coffin is an unfussy film with little more than the witnesses telling their truth to camera.
Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein comes two years after outstanding pieces of investigation from The New York Times and The New Yorker exposed Weinstein’s many years of alleged sexual assault of aspiring female actors, which he fully denies.
His trial begins next January and in the meantime, we have a trial by media. Directed by Ursula MacFarlane, this BBC documentary, which premiered at Sundance, places the revelations in context: who was this predator? And who allowed it all to happen?
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A parade of those close to him give their answers. A classmate sheds light on the formation of his psychopathy, revealing that his insecurities began at school. A former colleague explains his power hunger at college, where he lorded over Buffalo, New York, as a music promoter. Even in the early days of Miramax – his and brother Bob’s multimillion-pound production company that produced genre-defining films like Cinema Paradiso, Good Will Hunting and Pulp Fiction – he was known for his bullying and temper. "If you were in his way, it didn’t matter [who you were]. He was an equal opportunities abuser," says John Schmidt, Miramax’s former chief financial officer.
The most troubling interviews are with his sexual assault victims, of course. Most met Weinstein when he was at the height of his Hollywood fame and "always wanting more…more good reviews, more movies, more movie stars, more parties, just more more more," says Miramax’s former president, Mark Gill. In the film, actresses such as Rosanna Arquette, Paz De La Huerta, Erika Rosenbaum, Nannette Klatt and Caitlin Dulany step up and speak out. Their words have renewed impact when we see them delivered; each explains how a night with one of the most important people in Hollywood turned out to be life-changing in the most awful of ways. It’s a tough watch, all the more because we know they speak for the others who Weinstein coerced, either physically, psychologically, or through the slyer but more effective weapon of power abuse. Precisely because of his power, his prey didn't stand a chance: those who resisted faced being blacklisted, those who capitulated (and even some who didn’t) were the subject of a much-repeated line in Hollywood. As journalist Rebecca Traister explains, the sentiment was often: "She only got the part because she slept with Harvey Weinstein."
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The documentary is most revealing when it shows how people around him justify their complicity (one colleague likened Harvey’s power to "putting a light on in a porch – you’re going to get a lot of moths") and ultimately, that what they perceived as 'grey areas' were actually sexual abuse, and wrong. The cover-up and intimidation alone makes the viewer want to throttle their TV/laptop/phone, but the fact the documentary even exists is a sign that the climate has changed. Or as Arquette savagely puts it: "This is a revolution, so go fuck yourselves. We will not be silenced."
So began the #MeToo movement – the ripple effect of the Weinstein allegations across all backgrounds and industries. In 2017, ordinary women were publicly saying no and repeatedly brushing off abuse of power. It's a key conversation that we're still having right now. Twenty years ago, consent was understood as everything but running away. Ten years ago, we finally got the message across that no means no (although we still need to recite it). Two years ago, it hit home that consent cannot be freely given if the person in front of you can "make your career, or break your career" as Weinstein threatened. At best, it's a lopsided economy infringing on human rights. At worst, it’s a system that gives men or those in power (often the same thing) licence to do what they want. Given that in the UK, only 37% of rape trials end in conviction and that figure is 8% in Ireland, the latter scenario seems more probable.
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The continuing revelations surrounding Jeffrey Epstein and the fact that we have misogynistic bullies in power on both sides of the continent speak to the prevalence of the issue in all corners. As the documentary illustrates, the problem is too deep-rooted to find a solution in locking up any one individual. But pursuing offenders and putting Harvey Weinstein on trial seems like a good place to start.
Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein airs on BBC Two on Sunday 1st September at 9pm.
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.

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