Russell Simmons Documentary Premieres Amid Controversy

Russell Simmons Documentary Premieres Amid Controversy


Ziering and Dick, who have spent the past decade revealing sexual assault in the military (“The Invisible War”) and on college campuses (“The Hunting Ground”), begin tracking Dixon in the wake of the #MeToo movement, after an explosive column by the screenwriter Jenny Lumet alleging abuse against Simmons. Dixon’s claims are similar, and the film focuses on her as she grapples with her fears about how the black community will respond.

She also admits to idolizing Simmons when he first hired her: “Russell Simmons was who I wanted to be,” she says in the film. “I couldn’t have scripted it better.”

Recalling Anita Hill’s claims against Clarence Thomas when he was nominated for the Supreme Court, and Desiree Washington’s accusations against Mike Tyson, Dixon agonizes over whether she wants to go public, fearing that she is up against a force much larger than herself. “I’m never going to be that person,” she says in the film. “The black community is going to hate my guts.”

The documentary also discusses the culture at the time: misogyny in the music business, both in specifics when it came to hip-hop, and in general terms, pointing out that the rap genre didn’t invent the use of degrading images of women in its music videos. #MeToo founder Tarana Burke is also a frequent voice, adding commentary about black women’s place in the movement, and their feelings of alienation. “Black women feel like they have to support black men,” she said.

The movie returns to the Simmons case and other women’s stories: Abrams, a former model who had a relationship with him, tells her abuse story and the aftermath, when she tried to kill herself. “I’m a failure, a chew toy for men of power,” she says in the documentary. Hines, from the all-female hip-hop group Mercedes Ladies, also tells her story, agonizing over its consequences.

The film concludes with a tearful meeting between Abrams, Dixon and Lumet. The three join together for a survivor’s reunion, part commiseration over their shared experiences, part celebration of their recovery.

“I wish I could have come forward earlier,” Lumet says regretfully. “He could have left everyone else alone.”



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