I am not a fan of documentaries. But I am a fan of American investigative journalist Ronan Farrow. Just 33, and sinfully camera-friendly, Ronan, son of the iconic actress Mia Farrow, is the poster boy of fearless journalism. Not long ago, he accused his own father the legendary Woody Allen of sexual abuse in their own family. Then it was Harvey Weinstein, the poster boy of sexual predators in the global entertainment business. When a producer offers a cup of tea to an actress (or actor, for that matter) the answer is, “Don’t Weinstein me!”
Two years ago, Ronan wrote a book Catch & Kill, a phrase that refers to the custom of killing volatile stories because of pressure from the powers that bleed. Catch & Kill is now a 6-part documentary on HBO. So far only two episodes have aired, and they’re explosive. I have also seen some of the reviews in the American press and they reek of resentment about the newshound becoming the news.
The power and glory of star-journalist are now behind us. To see a young man claim a portion of that media-ruling mythology is intolerable to his ilk. I say, more power to Ronan. He is everything that a super-snooper should be but can’t because they go against the interests of the publishers. Ronan listens carefully and writes unsparingly. It won’t be wrong to say Ronan singlehandedly brought down the Harvey Weinstein empire where many of his predecessors had failed. The documentary gives space-time and an attentive ear to two such American journalists Kim Masters and Ken Auleta in Episode 2. They tell Ronan how close they were to collaring Weinstein. But had to pull back.
This is where Ronan indulges in a bit of self-congratulation. And why not? He got the biggest sex scandal scoop in the history of entertainment journalism. I was hooked to his interview with Philipino-Italian model-actress Ambra Battilana whom Wesinstein’s well-oiled machinery, tried its best to malign and suppress. I loved when Ms Battilana says to Ronan “Even a woman who wears high heels and a short skirt can stop a man, tell him no.”
Cue for applause, But hang on. Why did she accept an out-of-court million-dollar settlement from Weinstein and a non-disclosure agreement? And in that case, why is she sitting there like Joan of Arc? The minute you accept money from the accused your accusations run out of steam.
That, luckily this book turned into a podcast turned into a riveting documentary never does. It is swift snappy and seductive in its design. And proof of what journalists can expose if their bosses are with them (and can’t when they aren’t). The documentary is constantly engaging. But why so many top shots of New York with all those cars and skyscrapers giving the city a far-off once-upon-a-time look?
Directed and produced by Randy Barbato and Fenton Bailey, Catch & Kill The Podcast Tapes gets 4 stars!
Image source: Hotstar, Youtube/HBO