“This is not just our film. This is Drew’s film and the other survivors as well. They take us into this experience,” says Kirby Dick about “On the Record,” the documentary he directed with his filmmaking partner Amy Ziering. It’s their latest film to explore the subject of rape culture in America — in this case the story of Drew Dixon, a music executive who, along with many other women, came forward with allegations of sexual harassment and assault against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons. Dick and Ziering joined us for our “Meet the Experts” documentary panel. Watch our interview with them above.
Dick and Ziering previously made “The Invisible War” (2012), an Oscar-nominated investigation into the epidemic of rape in the US military. A few years later they released “The Hunting Ground” (2015), which explored the prevalence of rape on college campuses. Tragically, there is still no shortage of stories about abuse and exploitation by people in positions of power, so after the #MeToo movement gained momentum in 2017 with revelations about the crimes committed by Harvey Weinstein, “the floodgates had opened and women were finally feeling safe enough to speak,” Ziering explains. But “is it really safe now for women of color to speak?”
Sexual abuse in the African-American community comes with unique intersecting conflicts because of how sexuality has been used to justify violence against Black women and men throughout history. That forces women like Dixon into the impossible position where standing up for your right to a safe work environment could be seen as reinforcing racist stereotypes of predatory Black men. It’s all the more daunting when your abuser is a powerful, well-connected media figure like Simmons.
“They’re taking this great risk. They’re the ones who are putting themselves on the line,” Dick argues, “but you also have to have courage. You also have to be willing to, if something happens, step up and defend them … We’re going to stand by our survivors in every case.” And because so many women like Dixon leave entire careers to escape abuse, ending that cycle of abuse benefits all of us who have been robbed of their contributions to our culture. “If we actually start telling these stories, start listening to them, and start changing our systems that protect predators,” Ziering says, “our culture would entirely transform. It would be unrecognizable.”
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