‘The sheriff in town’: Why the new Harvey Weinstein documentary is a must-watch about sexual assault
02nd Sep 2019
New BBC documentary, ‘Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein’ interviewed journalists, business partners and victims of Harvey Weinstein
“I’m so glad I’m the f*cking sheriff of this sh*t-ass f*cking town”.
If ever there was a quote to sum up Harvey Weinstein’s character, this was it. Arrogant, aggressive, entitled, manic — and crucially, powerful.
A new documentary Untouchable: The Rise and Fall of Harvey Weinstein, which aired on BBC 2 last night, explores the disgraced movie mogul’s journey from industry visionary to infamous predator, and, perhaps most disturbingly, how the system enabled this journey to continue for so long.
Featuring interviews with previous colleagues of Weinstein’s at Miramax, investigative journalists, and victims of his, the documentary maps out almost three decades of sexual abuse and manipulation, where Weinstein would pay off women to ensure their silence about his actions.
Untouchable is, for many of them, their first time speaking publicly about what happened. An often difficult and harrowing watch, the film does a brilliant job of painting a detailed picture of what abuse of sex and power looks like, and more importantly, gives a voice to Weinstein’s victims.
“Do you know who I am?”
“When you read about rape, the girl kicks and screams, but that’s not exactly right,” says actor Paz de la Huerta, who accused Weinstein of raping her in 2010.
One of the most common lines of questioning victims of sexual assault deal with is, “why didn’t you fight back?” But as Paz (as well as the other women featured in Untouchable), explains, fear can be paralysing.
De la Huerta describes being afraid to move or react to Weinstein’s actions, and afterwards, being afraid to report him to the police. “I was terrified he would destroy me and he would say it was consensual, and he would say that I was a whore and I was lying.”
Hope D’Amore, who worked briefly with Weinstein 40 years ago, was visibly shaken as she described the night he allegedly raped her. “I said no and I pushed him away, more than once. And then I just stopped,” she said. “I weigh about 100lbs, probably about 110 then. I don’t know how to explain it. I just thought, if I just shut up it will be over in a few minutes.”
Their stories mirror that of many other victims of Weinstein — his predatory behaviour, right down to the words he used, was always the same.
Choosing a young woman, usually an aspiring actor or assistant, he would seemingly invite them to his hotel room, strip off, and ask for a massage. When they refused, he would become incensed, and flaunt his power and influence in an effort to persuade them. The women would either escape or be assaulted by Weinstein. Non-disclosure agreements and large settlements would usually follow.
The documentary also featured voices like Rosanna Arquette and Nannette Klatt, who described how Weinstein threatened their careers for rejecting his advances. Klein was asked by Weinstein to show him her breasts before auditioning for a part in an upcoming movie — when she refused, he said: “Do you know who I am? You know I can make your career or I can break your career? I can make it so you will never work in this business again. So show me your breasts.”
To this day, Weinstein denies all allegations of rape and sexual assault, and he maintains that any sexual contact between him and these women was consensual. He is due to appear for trial in January.
Power and control
With Weinstein’s aggression towards women being so well known in Hollywood that it became a common joke, it’s difficult to accept that his behaviour went unchecked for almost 30 years.
But, as Untouchable reveals, his power and control over not just the movie industry, but the media, allowed Weinstein to continue his predatory ways for far too long.
Journalists Andrew Goldman and Rebecca Traister talk about an incident with Weinstein where he verbally and physically attacked them at a high-profile party but the story never emerged. Investigative reporter Ronan Farrow, whose work on the story saw him interview several women who claimed to be victims of Weinstein, explained how he was forced to move from his apartment due to being followed while working on the story.
Every effort was made to make sure Weinstein’s decades of abuse were kept under wraps — but with the work of those at the New York Times, the New Yorker, and now Untouchable, it finally came to the surface.
Featured image: Harvey Weinstein in his Miramax Films office in New York in 1989, BBC
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