Aug. 31 (UPI) — When Hulu’s new documentary “Untouchable” premieres Monday, it will be almost two years since the New York Times published the initial reports of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein.
Because additional women spoke out about their experiences with Weinstein in the ensuing years, “Untouchable” illuminates still more details about Weinstein’s behavior.
Many of Weinstein’s accusers spoke to director Ursula Macfarlane about their interaction with the movie mogul. Weinstein’s former assistant, Zelda Perkins, signed a nondisclosure agreement in 1998 barring her from discussing her knowledge of sexual assaults. In the film, she presents her agreement, which also forbids her from talking to a therapist about what transpired.
“That is one of the things that I find it gobsmacking,” Macfarlane told UPI. “That’s against the professional regulations of being a therapist. It should be against the law, but brazenly they were able to put it in an NDA. It’s beyond belief, really.”
Locating a copy of that document was no easy feat for Perkins.
“I’m very glad that Zelda kept a copy,” Macfarlane said. “It took her a long time to get that out of her lawyers and she finally got it. Thankfully, she was able to give it to us.”
Actresses such as Rosanna Arquette, Paz de la Huerta, Caitlin Dulany, Nanette Klatt and Louise Godbold also told Macfarlane their stories. The Cut reporter Rebecca Traister alleged Weinstein assaulted her at a book party he hosted. Traister also pointed out that before 2017, rumors surrounding Weinstein always were framed as “she slept with him,” never that he was the aggressor.
“I think I’m guilty of framing things that way, as well, because it’s normalized,” Macfarlane said. “Something I really hope the film shows (is) that there is tremendous power to be had in speaking out, because then at least the conversation can start to change. People can kind of look at these situations differently.
“We need to question the way we describe the activities of men and women. I think it’s really good that we stop and look and think about the terms we use. I think these women’s stories may be helping us do that.”
Hope D’Amore was one of the women who came forward in 2017. She alleged that Weinstein raped her in a hotel room while a concert promoter in the ’70s. Macfarlane feels it was important to pinpoint how early the pattern of behavior started.
“We have someone who was allegedly raped 40 years ago, which is huge,” Macfarlane said. “Many people that I’d spoken to had no idea that this had begun such a long time ago. I think that’s what we’re learning but we’re also learning about the context of where these abuses took place, the context of a man rising to power and when he used his power to get what he wanted but also to protect himself.
“That’s something we try to do — put those allegations that everyone knows about in the context of power. That’s where we started, really.”
Even if some of the stories the women in “Untouchable” tell have been covered before, Macfarlane believes presenting the woman on screen has a unique power.
“When you see these women on camera, struggling with their memories, they find it hard to talk but nevertheless they embrace talking,” Macfarlane said. “That’s a kind of power that maybe only film can give you.”
The pattern shared by many of the women includes hotel room meetings in which Weinstein allegedly disrobed and asked for a massage. Erika Rosenbaum declined an invitation to Weinstein’s hotel room. Weinstein later had his assistant set another hotel room meeting, before dinner. Rosenbaum thought she’d be safe this time, since she’d turned him down once.
“Erika is incredibly honest,” Macfarlane said. “She recognizes that some people might find her story troubling because she did go back to see him. But I think it goes back to the victim-shaming idea that somehow the victim is to blame for what happened. And I think she did tussle with herself. She felt that if he tried something again, she’d be able to handle it.”
Former Miramax executives also appear in the film, corroborating many of the women’s stories and regretting that they did not speak up earlier.
“I’d like people to watch the film and kind of think about people at Miramax who are quite honest, actually,” Macfarlane said. “One of them said, ‘I really should have said something. I should have done something and I didn’t and that weighs heavy on me.’ It’s not just survivors being brave and breaking their silence.”
In documenting Weinstein’s rise to power and abuse of that power, Macfarlane illustrated the system that enabled alleged abuses to go unchecked for so long. Her hope for “Untouchable” is to empower survivors and shift the balance.
“What I do hope that happens is that people will listen to accusers more,” Macfarlane said. “They will believe them and they will help them report it. I think those are the things we can change. All of us, me included, need to look at the professional world and do we call out injustice, bullying and harassment when we see it?”
Macfarlane had hoped “Untouchable” would play on Hulu one week before Weinstein’s scheduled trial. Even with the trial delayed until early next year, she continues to follow the case.
“His people are quite clever at dominating the news. I feel we hear more about their side than we often do from the women who clearly obviously don’t have that sort of powerful legal network,” Macfarlane said.
“We heard a lot about the delays and the disclosure and now more delays,” Macfarlane said. “He was in a car accident. I think he’s someone everyone wants to hear about because he is larger than life. He’s kind of Beauty and the Beast in a way. I think people are always interested in The Beast. So I think he will continue to dominate the news.”