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Bill Cosby Sundance Doc ‘We Need to Talk About Cosby’ Eviscerates ‘America’s Dad’


Bill Cosby Sundance Doc ‘We Need to Talk About Cosby’ Eviscerates ‘America’s Dad’

At the beginning of the new documentary series We Need to Talk About Cosby, director W. Kamau Bell asks what should be a simple question: “Who is Bill Cosby now?” Few of his interview subjects are able to answer it.

They all sigh. Heavily sigh. One subject makes a point to label hers: “deep Black-girl sigh.” One person just says, “Fuck,” a one-word answer to the unanswerable.

But there are a few who manage to form a response. “He is known as America’s dad.” “Or a quote unquote monster.” “The juxtaposition is just bananas.” “He was someone to believe in and someone to trust.” “He wasn’t the nice person everyone thought he was.” “An example of the complexity of humanity.” Then things get a bit more blunt. “He was a rapist who had a really big TV show once.” High-profile attorney Gloria Allred is quick and direct: “I look forward to seeing Bill Cosby again,” she says. “In a court of law.”

We Need to Talk About Cosby is a four-part docuseries directed by Bell, an Emmy-winning TV host and producer and a stand-up comic. It begins airing Jan. 30 on Showtime, but all four parts premiered Saturday afternoon at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival. It’s a natural fit for the festival that has, in recent years, hosted the first screenings of buzzy and controversial documentaries centered around the sexual assault allegations against Michael Jackson (2019’s Leaving Neverland) and Russell Simmons (2020’s On the Record).

The series is a comprehensive, harrowing, and exhaustive look at Cosby’s rise in the entertainment industry, his strategic self-branding throughout the decades of his career, and the unimpeachable impact he had in changing Black culture and how Black Americans are viewed in this country. It also examines how he so strongly built his reputation as “America’s dad” and a global powerhouse that, even when accusations and rumors against him became well-known, he was still booked, celebrated, and protected.

The series also painstakingly builds the other pillar of Cosby’s legacy, brick by haunting brick: the graphic detail of the dozens of assaults alleged…

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