Bill Cosby to most Americans, was an individual that managed to break down the racial barrier by entering the family homes of both the blacks and the whites, at a time when the distance between the races was growing fast with the help of German Shepards and police batons.
People soon fell in love with him as he played a loving father under the name Dr.Heathcliff Huxtable in The Cosby Show (1984 – 1992) and his position grew, managing to make him a powerful and influential figure in not just the entertainment industry, but society as well.
This piece shows a side to Cosby’s life that wasn’t visible to the public due to the silence of all his victims or “Cosby survivors” as they call themselves. They’re classed as victims due to having – by their own words – been drugged by Cosby so he may sexually assault them whilst they lay unconscious.
After one woman (Andrea Constand), had pressed charges in 2004 against Cosby claiming to be a victim too, the charges were dropped confidentially, but it had paved a way for the other victims to speak up. What followed was a line of over 50 “Cosby survivors” pressing charges in the hope that together they’ll be able to bring consequence to a man that got away with it for so long.
This Netflix documentary is a platform which provides these women a space to tell their story which has often been ridiculed. It features the horrific retelling of their time alone with Cosby improvising lines or auditioning for a part in The Cosby Show which was all a ruse just to have these women drink and lose the will to consent.
The set up is what you’d expect of a documentary of this sort – talking heads and stock footage showing Cosby’s on screen persona, although it’s the retelling of these women’s stories that moves it away from the conventional and their words – unaccompanied by music – stick in your mind. This results in the marriage of Cosby’s stock footage of loving father and doctor with the still shots of the women telling their traumatic stories becoming an eerie back and forth.
The indelible truth grows even larger with the women introduced as they are today and as they were before the moment with Cosby, with a picture that they hold up in shot showing them as young, optimistic and carefree – ignorant to what they’re about to encounter.
This piece is sending a message directly to Cosby and all those refusing to listen to these women’s stories, but it’s also empowering those that have also fallen victim to sexual assault and as a result silenced themselves. The sheer bravery of these women to speak out publicly about this, at times against their families wishes, simply approves of any victim, any survivor to speak up too.
Cosby: The Women Speak wasn’t produced for entertainment, it wasn’t birthed for the purpose of a lazy Sunday viewing, its an important piece that’ll keep the bookmark steadily in place, so that we never forget the trail left behind by a powerful figure.
Dir: Melia Patria
Scr: Melia Patria
Cast: Barbara Bowman, Sarita Butterfield, Vicki Carbe, Andrea Constand etc
Prd: Matthew Cullinan, Brad Abramson, Vicky Brophy etc
DOP: Herb Forsberg & Edgar Llamas
Runtime: 60 mins
Cosby: The Women Speak (2015) is available on Netflix on the 10th of June 2018