In the fall of 2017, Hollywood was rocked when producer Harvey Weinstein’s exploitation of women finally became public news. The New York Times published a detailed article by journalists Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey on the Miramax co-founder’s history of abuse and the decades of pay-offs to his accusers. Ronan Farrow’s explosive The New Yorker story ran just days later. Weinstein’s behavior was an open secret in the industry but he evaded the police and media due to his powerful position. It meant the women he harassed and raped, from assistants to models to actors, had to suffer silently for years, but these groundbreaking stories were a step towards justice and helped the #MeToo movement gain global traction as well. Weinstein was fired and eventually arrested for his crimes. In March 2020, he was sentenced to 23 years in prison.
HBO’s Catch And Kill: The Podcast Tapes offers another gripping look into the months Farrow spent interviewing sources, and the arduous journey to get his story published. Farrow already documented much of the process in his 2019 book, Catch And Kill: Lies, Spies, And A Conspiracy To Protect Predators, and then in a podcast titled—care to venture a guess?—The Catch And Kill Podcast, which could be why the docuseries is on the shorter side with six half-hour episodes. The information revealed might not be brand new, especially to those who have ardently followed the investigation and trial, but actually seeing some of the women share their traumatic experiences with Weinstein leaves a significant and emotional impression. The visual component lends some urgency to this latest rendition of the story of Farrow’s exposé, as we get to see the podcast interviews with various people involved with the article, including fellow journalists Rich McHugh, Kim Masters, and Ken Auletta, as well as fact checkers from The New Yorker.
The series attempts to chronologically piece together how the investigations began before even Farrow came into the picture, taking audiences through the journey with him. Episode one, “The Wire,” features footage from his interview with Ambra Gutierrez, a Filipino Italian model who played a major role in helping attain concrete proof against Weinstein. In 2015, she was assaulted by him in a hotel room and immediately went to file a police report. The following night, she met with him again, only this time she was wearing a wire. Catch And Kill also offers details about how Weinstein and the tabloids tried to frame a false narrative about Gutierrez due to her past as a key witness in the court proceeding against Italy’s former Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi.
The docuseries takes on various members of the media, the legal system and law enforcement, as well as some of Weinstein’s co-workers and lawyers who strived to protected him over the women he harmed. In an interview, his former assistant Rowena Chiu says she was unable to land any job in the industry for a year after she filed an official complaint against him. In 1998, just one month after she began working for him, Chiu alleges that Weinstein attempted to rape her at the Venice Film Festival. She left the job soon after and interviewed at multiple film and TV companies in London, but was unable to get work, thanks to Weinstein. Chiu was eventually pulled back into Miramax because it was the only place that would hire her, but she stipulated a post in Hong Kong so she never had to come face-to-face with her abuser again.
Weinstein’s movies were hailed as career-makers. Meryl Streep referred to him as God while accepting her Golden Globe award for The Iron Lady in 2012. He lobbied hard for his actors to win an Oscar. This power made him untouchable for decades. Catch And Kill doesn’t shy away from showing celebrities putting Weinstein on a pedestal in public, from Streep’s speech to Richard Gere deriding negative coverage of the movie mogul. The docuseries digs into the controversy over Farrow’s NBC News story. He was originally working on the investigative report for NBC, but it was surprisingly shut down, with NBC News President Noah Oppenheim claiming the evidence did not meet journalistic standards. (NBC News issued a response to Farrow’s claims in 2018, and Oppenheim addressed these issues in a staff memo in 2019 following the release of the journalist’s book). Farrow then got help from Auletta, who connected him with The New Yorker’s David Remnick. Only a few weeks later, Today anchor Matt Lauer was fired for inappropriate sexual behavior in the workplace.
Catch And Kill seeks to trace this insidious insider circle, but one of the most intriguing parts of the docuseries comes in the final episode, “The Spy.” Farrow interviews Igor Ostrovskiy, a Russian private investigator contracted to surveil him while he was researching his article and meeting up with sources confidentially. Ostrovskiy was hired by Black Cube, an Israel-based agency with Mossad roots, and they were working on behalf of Weinstein. The PI reveals his motivations of reaching out to Farrow and disclosing the truth to him. His side of the story helps to further understand the power Weinstein wielded, and why those who benefitted from his work might have overlooked rumors about him, or were knowingly complicit to protect their jobs and lives. A glimpse into these hard truths, Farrow’s important work to reveal them, and the women who open up in the series makes Catch And Kill a vital watch.