Kumau Bell is no stranger to the Sundance Film Festival. This year, however, is Bell’s first time at Sundance as a director. Kumau Bell’s docuseries We Need to Talk About Cosby deconstructs why it is difficult but necessary to talk about Bill Cosby. Comedians, journalists, scholars, and most importantly, women who survived Cosby’s attacks, share their perspectives in honest and difficult interviews.
Bell, like millions of others, grew up consuming and admiring Cosby’s comedy. Bell takes a deep look at how Cosby’s crimes were easy to hide and provides a safe place for victims to tell their stories. We Need to Talk About Cosby is a four episode series that is well paced and allows for those interviewed to speak their mind and unravel the complexities of their layered feelings. The narrative uses a timeline structure that shows Cosby’s successes parallel to his crimes. This is a particularly effective framing device as historical context enables the interviewees and Bell to develop their stories.
Bell’s project is comprehensive and his approach is impressive. Systemic racism, a need for black heroes, and the general misogyny of society set the stage to display the frightening nature of Cosby’s success. Bell’s documentary shows the insidious nature of predatory behavior and discusses the importance of believing victims. By allowing the survivors and those who have dealt with Cosby in uncomfortable situations to share their encounters, a voice is given those that have been silenced by the power dynamics.
We Need to Talk About Cosby is a thought provoking film. At its core it explores the topic of separation of art from the artists, a conversation that has been in place since the start of the Me Too Movement. Can it be done? What if they are one in the same?
The Sundance Film Festival is online January 20- January 30. Tickets can be purchased and a full lineup can be found here.
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