It’s a little surreal to watch Ursula Macfarlane’s Untouchable, a documentary simply referred to as “The Harvey Weinstein film,” at a venue where Weinstein might have been hosted on several occasions. But that’s the power of this seismic shift in cultural commentary; #MeToo is precisely about probing the system responsible for enabling the abusive whisper networks. The Sundance Film Festival has not shied away this year, from both cultural representation and social empowerment. A couple of important investigative documentary films in the program – “The Michael Jackson film,” Leaving Neverland, is one of them – are testament to this reaction.
Untouchable traces the story of the monster that triggered a revolution. It painstakingly puts onto film what The New Yorker and NYT articles had put into words – we have faces, images, broken voices and difficult emotions lending credence to a remarkable moment in time. From Miramax ex-employees to little-known survivors and traumatised victims, Untouchable touches upon Hollywood’s best-kept worst secret. It begins with the aged face of a woman who suffered at the hands the mogul way back in 1978: a startlingly visceral interview that immediately contextualises the irrevocable horrors of his pathological debauchery. It ends with journalism, and insights from the heroic reporters who chased down dead ends to break an unbreakable story. To break the unbreakable. But the most important part about this film is its cautionary balance, its perspective-defining sobriety. “Nothing has ended,” says one of the brave women in the closing shot. Her tone is irreversibly damaged. Because she’s right.
It never ends – an alarming truth that manifests through the unflinching gaze of Pippa Bianco’s Share. The famous and infamous perpetrators are the bullet-points of this era. But it’s the silent voices, the young and little-known and suppressed ones, that lend perspective to the sub-culture behind the culture. Mandy (a hypnotic Rhianne Barreto), the Indian-American teenager of this film, can’t remember the specifics of the night that spawned a video of her drunken escapades. A video she doesn’t know who filmed. A video she doesn’t know the end of. She fears the worst…but feels responsible for her own actions.
Her parents, one of whom is the excellent Poorna Jagannathan, are caught in the vortex of her tragic moral conflict. Share articulates the pointlessness of justice, or at least the concept of its futility, with a feverish, quasi-nightmarish tone of an America in the shadows of self-denial. Everything feels as grainy as the video that distorted a sense of belonging. Here is a girl whose closest friends try hard to normalise a wild party, a girl who at the back of her mind now suspects everybody and trusts nobody. “I like hooking up and I drink a lot,” she screams to her father at one point, almost as if she were trying to justify the hell they are in. As if she were trying to explain her fate. He can’t believe his ears. “That doesn’t mean they can exploit you,” he pleads as much as remarks. She is blaming herself. She feels betrayed by everyone, but mostly by herself. Almost as if she can hear the damning observation of a distressed Weinstein correspondent: “When a girl lands a role, it’s always the *actress* who is said to have blown, fucked or seduced Harvey, never the other way around.” Mandy, unfortunately, believes this too. The final shot of this film is an exceedingly symbolic one – it proves that while the Weinsteins may fade like statues being felled to indicate a change of guard, nothing really changes. Abuse isn’t always a subset of powerplay. The Mandys of this world don’t have reporters lining up outside their door.