The BBC is promising to bring viewers the “definitive” account of the Harvey Weinstein scandal after ordering a feature-length documentary from two-time Oscar-winning producer Simon Chinn and his production company Lightbox. Although the British broadcaster will screen the documentary on TV, it is tentatively planning for an Academy and BAFTA award-qualifying theatrical release.
Lightbox said the 90-minute documentary would feature interviews with actresses who have accused Weinstein of misconduct as well as with journalists, producers, directors, actors, agents and lawyers involved in the scandal. Some of the people will be speaking publicly for the first time about the story.
Simon and Jonathan Chinn created Lightbox and, as the producer of Oscar-winning documentaries “Man on Wire” and “Searching for Sugar Man,” Simon comes to the project with some industry knowledge and contacts. “As a little bit of an [industry] insider, I was fascinated with the story as it unfolded and not a little shocked,” he told Variety. “As much as people knew a lot about Harvey and his reputation, there was plenty that we didn’t know.”
Chinn, who has met the disgraced mogul once, said the BBC Two documentary would retell the Weinstein story in light of recent revelations and in the context of the wider culture in Hollywood. “As the story evolved, we started to think about the industry as a whole and the culture and complicity of the industry, and the question of how Harvey got away with that level of alleged behavior and…whether we are looking at a real watershed moment,” he said.
Chinn added that Lightbox is already unearthing new aspects of the story. There is a strong U.S.-U.K. axis to the scandal, as authorities in both countries are investigating criminal allegations against Weinstein, who will be given a chance to participate in this film. At least one other major factual project on Weinstein is in the works in Britain.
Ursula MacFarlane (“Charlie Hebdo: Three Days That Shook Paris”) will direct. Chinn said it was significant that a woman was taking charge of the project. “I think she will come at the story with a female perspective,” he said. “She’s an incredibly sensitive filmmaker who will be able to relate to many of the victims of [Weinstein’s] alleged abuse with great sensitivity.”
Patrick Holland, controller of the BBC Two channel, added: “The breaking of silence over Harvey Weinstein is a watershed moment for the creative industries and for wider society. Ursula is a brilliant filmmaker and is perfectly placed to make the definitive documentary, piecing together the story of just how he abused his power and position.”
While “Weinstein” is the first major documentary on the scandal to be announced, it is unlikely to be the first to screen, as Lightbox will take most of 2018 to produce a comprehensive account. The BBC is tentatively in favor of a release along the lines of that for “LA92,” which is shortlisted for an Oscar and had a festival launch and an Academy and BAFTA award-qualifying theatrical release. Drive is handling international pre-sales.
Tom McDonald, head of commissioning of natural history and specialist factual for the BBC, said “Weinstein” would be a landmark feature on Hollywood and the Weinstein saga. “This is a film which will ask difficult and challenging questions about complicity, the price of silence and the corrosive effects of power, and I’m certain that Lightbox will bring their signature approach to this important subject.”
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