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When Ursula Macfarlane’s Harvey Weinstein documentary, Untouchable, hit Hulu earlier this month, it was supposed to have just begun streaming as Weinstein’s trial on charges of rape and sexual assault kicked off on Sept. 9.
But just days before Untouchable‘s streaming debut, Weinstein’s trial was delayed until early next year.
Still, Macfarlane and two of her subjects, Weinstein accusers Hope D’Amore and Erika Rosenbaum, weren’t certain that the disgraced former film mogul would go to trial when they spoke with The Hollywood Reporter after Untouchable‘s screening at the inaugural female-focused 51Fest in New York at the end of July, just days after a criminal case was dropped against Kevin Spacey, another high-profile figure who was accused of sexual misconduct in the early days of the #MeToo movement.
“It’s interesting, because the first round of interviews we did, we shot probably about exactly a year ago,” Macfarlane said of making the documentary. “There was a sense of ebullience in the air like, ‘Yeah, Trump’s going down, and all of these guys, it’s over for them.’ And then of course as time went on over the summer and last autumn, you had the [Brett] Kavanaugh [Supreme Court] appointment, more Trump stuff, obviously Jeffrey Epstein, so more and more of these stories come out and that sense of ‘Oh yeah, he’s definitely going to jail’ began to get quite tempered. And then obviously a lot of the cases got dismissed, and I certainly, just from what people say, I get the feeling there is anxiety now about the case, about the trial. Things may not be quite as clear-cut as people hope they would be — there’s not that many cases.”
Earlier, in a post-screening panel, D’Amore said that she’s “still afraid that Harvey’s not actually going to go to trial,” later telling THR that she offered to testify as a corroborating witness.
Rosenbaum was more optimistic, telling THR, “It’s certainly hard to imagine this many people telling their truth about one man and him not going to trial. That seems incredibly implausible. But it took years and years and over 30 women to get Cosby to trial, so I’d like to think that our legal system is learning and changing because of these brave women coming forward and because of these truths that are being revealed, these undeniable stories that are being shared. I hope that we see this go to trial and that these women get to tell their story to a jury, and that justice is served.”
Macfarlane’s film features interviews not only with women who have accused Weinstein of sexual misconduct but also with former colleagues and journalists who reflect on Weinstein’s power and influence in his heyday.
“In the end, it is about money and power,” Macfarlane said in the post-screening panel. “And I kind of think if Harvey Weinstein was a poor guy, a man with no resources, he’d probably be in jail.”
Making the documentary as the Weinstein story was still unfolding, Macfarlane said she wanted to create something that would have a longer shelf life.
“We wanted to make a documentary that felt like a film of record, that we felt like you could watch in five years’ time and feel like that was a moment in time,” she said. “We thought, how do we detach ourselves from the ongoing court case and what’s going on with #MeToo and just try and and tell the story of what happened in as deep a way as we could. … We wanted something that would stand the test of time and not be a brief moment in history.”
Who they could get to speak with them shaped the focus of the film, Macfarlane said, adding that, in some cases, “there’s a sense that people are still afraid.”
While Rosenbaum and D’Amore were willing to tell their stories on camera, both were initially reluctant to come forward.
Before the New York Times exposed Weinstein’s decades of alleged sexual misconduct in October 2017, D’Amore said she hadn’t told anyone how Weinstein allegedly sexually assaulted her in the late ’70s. Shortly after the Times‘ story went online, Weinstein’s lawyer threatened to sue the media outlet for defamation, and that’s what prompted D’Amore to speak out.
“I just thought, ‘The hell you are, not this time.’ So I emailed I think Jodi Kantor, and I said, ‘I can corroborate what they said,'” D’Amore said during the post-screening panel. “I didn’t say anything for years, and then I told a reporter at the New York Times before I even told my sister. Once I made that decision, I knew that was it; I knew I wasn’t going to just say it and not back it up…but it was because he threatened those women who stood up.”
D’Amore added that she ultimately realized she had PTSD from her experience with Weinstein and has been going to therapy after she was “beyond running on fumes” and unable to work.
“This has had such a hold over me my entire life, and I’m 64 years old, so two-thirds of my life, this has been a controlling force for all of that time,” she told THR. “It diminishes the power it has over you once you name it and once you say it out loud. … Now I feel like I’m going to be able to go back to work again.”
Rosenbaum hadn’t planned to tell anyone about her experience, but once she decided to do so, she felt she should “be honest” about what happened.
“I didn’t really want to talk about the details, because I had tried very hard not to think about them for a very long time,” she told THR. “I’ve only shared this with reporters and the film, essentially, and my husband — in less detail, I suppose — because it’s not the kind of thing you want to talk about. But I did feel like I wanted to be honest, because if I didn’t spell out how horrible it was, then I’d be keeping a secret for somebody, and he did not deserve that. I didn’t do anything wrong, so sharing something awful that he did, it might make me feel awful, but it’s something he did, so it was the right thing to do.”
While Rosenbaum and Macfarlane agree that a criminal trial would be part of justice for Weinstein’s alleged victims, they agree with D’Amore that nothing can undo what happened to these women.?
“I think that justice could look like a trial,” Rosenbaum said. “I’d like to see him go to court like any other person who committed these crimes. I would like him to hear the women that he’s hurt and have to be held accountable for that. … There’s no reparation. But I think a trial and being called the criminal he is, because these are crimes, that’s as close as we’re going to get.”
Macfarlane added, “I think any dangerous criminal predator should go to jail, and there’s many others. That is an important element of justice. But…there’s no reparations — you can’t get back years and years of somebody’s life, and in the end that’s appalling, so I think the most important thing we can do is listen to people who are speaking out, whether they are men or women, listen to them, look after them and help support them, financially as well.”
Both Macfarlane and Rosenbaum also remain encouraged by the next generation.
“We’re in crisis in more ways than one, and I think this is somewhat ground zero for that crisis, from an environmental standpoint, from a leadership standpoint, so I like to think that it is hopeful that this story broke at this time and that it was picked up and spread like wildfire, and women everywhere decided to stand up and say enough — enough with the rich, white guys beating us into destruction, enough with feeling less than, and enough with that half of the table running the show. This is not working,” Rosenbaum said. “We see it with young people too — they’re saying enough, you’re not doing it, it’s not working. So I think when things are bad enough, things are dire enough, there is a tipping point, and I hope that’s what this is, and I hope this will be seen as a time in history in which women started taking the reins and the balance of power shifted.”?