Sundance, where Weinstein was king, airs film chronicling his fall

US film producer Harvey Weinstein. (AFP pic)

PARK CITY: For more than 20 years, Harvey Weinstein reigned supreme as rainmaker at the Sundance Film Festival, spending millions of dollars to buy up the best in independent cinema.

Now he’s back, but in a film detailing his stunning downfall that gives voice to his many sexual assault accusers.

“Untouchable,” directed by Ursula Macfarlane, makes no claim to offer shocking new revelations. Rather, it attempts to retrace, as rigorously and scrupulously as possible, both the talent and the decadence of one of the most powerful men in Hollywood — a man who now awaits trial on charges of rape and sexual aggression.

The Sundance Film Festival, once Weinstein’s favorite hunting ground, presented the film’s world premiere Friday, just hours after showing “Leaving Neverland,” a four-hour-long documentary featuring two young men who say that, as children, they were sexually abused by Michael Jackson.

The alleged victims are also at the heart of “Untouchable.” Whether unknown starlets or A-list celebrities, they describe what they say were the abuses, the threats, and the insatiable sexual appetite of Weinstein as he acted without restraint and in seeming impunity.

Among them is the actress Rosanna Arquette, one of the first women to publicly accuse the producer, in an article by reporter Ronan Farrow in The New Yorker magazine.

“It was time,” she told AFP on the “black carpet” of the film’s premiere. “We were seeing more and more abuse, such abuse of power of a powerful man who can destroy lives in a flash. So it was time.”

Arquette, famous for her roles in “Desperately Seeking Susan” and “The Big Blue,” said people were beginning to talk about abuse even before the Weinstein scandal erupted in public.

“You had the women of Bill Cosby, and they came out before us, so they spoke. And then we came out,” she told AFP.

“Apparently because a lot of us were famous actresses, people went ‘What?’ And then it started something so huge, and now it is a movement across the world — everywhere, India, Africa, everywhere.”

‘Anger brewing’

Ursula Mcfarlane was contacted by producers about making “Untouchable” shortly after the New York Times and the New Yorker published their sensational revelations about Weinstein in October 2017, making headlines around the world. She immediately said yes, she told AFP.

“You know, Trump got into the White House and I think that was a big moment. There was the women’s march,” she recalled.

“I think people felt this kind of anger brewing that this guy and many others like him were able to get away with it.”

Macfarlane did not know Weinstein but feels she knows his type well. “To be honest, when I read these stories, it didn’t surprise me because of course I know about lots of other men’s behavior, alleged behavior, in these spheres,” she said.

What did shock her was learning the extent of the allegations, and realizing there were “layers of complicity within the industry” protecting Weinstein.

“Women were trying to talk about this for decades, they were trying to talk about it and break the story, and they just couldn’t do it, you know, because everyone was frightened,” she said.

“So I think that level of power and fear that he seemed to be able to generate, that shocked me.”

‘A paradigm shift’

The impact of the Weinstein scandal ricocheted through Hollywood and beyond, prompting widespread soul-searching in the film industry, the world of politics, the news media and other sectors.

And by sparking the #MeToo movement, it gave thousands of women the freedom, the platform and the desire to at last speak out.

Fifteen months after the original “earthquake,” Rosanna Arquette believes it is time for men to engage more actively and to draw a line, once and for all, on the sordid ways of pre-Weinstein Hollywood.

“I think people are looking at their watches — ‘When is this gonna end?’ — the men especially. But the thing is, this is not an attack on men,” she said.

“There are many incredible men, and those men are the men that we need to stand up, stand with us, stand beside and treat women with respect. It’s a paradigm shift. It’s not going to work the other way anymore — it’s not.”

Macfarlane, too, sees the change as irreversible.

“Consciousness is definitely changing, and I think the world of Harvey Weinstein is not going to be the same. I do believe that.

“But it might not change as quickly as we all would like. That’s the issue.”