It’s not easy to reckon with the idea that someone who was so inspirational and important in the advancement of culture and progress within any space has done horrible things. But doing so can be crucial, since if the main lesson a person has taught others is to do good, recognizing the failures of that teacher to live up to that notion is the most crucial takeaway.
These are the sentiments of W. Kamau Bell, director of the documentary series We Need to Talk about Cosby. The four-part series, which makes its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival before debuting on Showtime this weekend, analyzes the significant and irreversible positive contributions that Bill Cosby made to Hollywood as a person of color, and the irreparable harm that he caused by taking advantage of his position of power to victimize those with none.
Bell’s effort was not an easy one, especially due to the reluctance of many to comment publicly on their feelings about Cosby, but his work is outstanding and vitally important. I was fortunate to be able to speak with him – on his birthday, of all days – about why he needed to make this series and the people he believes most need to watch it.
You can watch the video below, along with an official summary and where to watch.
Interview with Director W. Kamau Bell on We Need to Talk About Cosby
WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY offers an in-depth look at the revolutionary career and personal descent of Bill Cosby, the renowned comedian, actor, philanthropist and African American icon, who for decades was revered as “America’s Dad,” but has now gained infamy as a criminal defendant in a sexual-assault prosecution. The series explores the complex story of Cosby’s life and work, weighing his actions against his indisputable global influence through interviews with comedians, cultural commentators, journalists and women who share their most personal, harrowing encounters with Cosby. Through archival footage, Cosby reveals who he may have been all along – the antithesis of the principled, public figure who became a hero, not only to African American people but to all people.
The four-parter sheds new light on Cosby’s cultural contributions and impact at the height of his disgrace – accused of rape, drug-facilitated sexual assault, sexual battery and other misconduct by more than 60 women as far back as nearly 60 years. Bell, who grew up idolizing Cosby, unpacks how Cosby’s desire for power, which propelled his professional success, could be the same driving force that motivated his alleged crimes against women. WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY peels back complex layers, portraying the genius performer, philanthropist and role model, contrasted by the accused sexual predator that now defines him. It offers viewers the chance to reconsider Cosby’s mark in a society where rape culture, toxic masculinity, capitalism and white supremacy are shaping how we re-evaluate sex, power and agency.
We Need to Talk About Cosby makes its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival and airs weekly on Showtime on Sundays at 9pm beginning January 30th.