VOD film review: On the Record
Bianca Garner | On 30, Jun 2020
Director: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering
Cast: Drew Dixon, Bim Adewunmi, Sil Lai Abrams, Tarana Burke, Jenny Lumet, Sheri Sher
Watch On the Record online in the UK: Sky Documentaries / NOW / Curzon Home Cinema / BFI Player / Apple TV (iTunes) / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Rakuten TV / Google Play / Sky Store
There’s no denying the powerful impact that the #MeToo movement has has upon our society as a whole. It has allowed so many women to have their voices heard, and to get the justice that they rightfully deserve. However, there’s also no denying that there are many more women who have been forgotten about. In this harrowing and eye-opening documentary from Amy Ziering and Kirby Dick, we focus on the story of Drew Dixon, a former music executive who reported in 2017 that she was sexually abused by Def Jam Recordings co-founder Russell Simmons.
We slowly find out that Dixon wasn’t the only woman to report being preyed upon by Simmons. On the Record allows Dixon and other prominent women of colour, such as Sil Lai Abrams, Jenny Lumet, and Sheri Sher, to recount their stories. We mainly follow Dixon as she makes the decision to speak out to The New York Times. Dixon recounts her story to us, discussing how she found herself in the employment of Def Jam Recordings and the environment of the hip-hop industry at the time. Dixon’s career journey is fascinating and inspiring, as she made her way up the industry ladder and had great success.
Dixon also acknowledges the misogyny that surrounds the hip-hop music scene, especially in terms of sexist lyrics and the presentation of women in music videos. Still, Dixon was drawn to this world because she understood the power of hip-hop and how it could help a movement. The environment at Def Jam was also a challenge for Dixon, especially in terms of Simmons’ predatory behaviour, which she says kept escalating until it became violent.
It’s very disturbing to hear Dixon say how Simmons tricked and coaxed her, isolating her in his apartment under false pretexts. She tells us she blacked out and walked the 22 blocks home. In her frank and honest tone, Dixon recounts that she took a cold shower with all her clothes on and “just laid there for a long time”. “I was nothing, I was trash, nothing about me mattered,” she adds. It’s hard not to be overcome with emotion hearing Dixon talking about herself in this manner. Many victims of abuse are overwhelmed by feelings of guilt, which are rarely spoken about in public.
The documentary is also very open about the prejudice that women of colour face especially in terms of being denied a platform to speak. The documentary touches upon the Anita Hill case in 1991, where Hill accused US Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment. “The Black community wasn’t kind to her,” Dixon reminisces, which she says affected her coming forward about Simmonds.
The film allows many people such as Tarana Burke (who started the #MeToo movement), Bim Adewunmi and Dr. Joan Morgan to speak their minds on issues within the Black community, in terms of attitudes towards Black men being accused of harassing women, and the problems and prejudices of society as a whole. Dixon and a couple of other survivors acknowledge that they are “light-skinned”, which means they’re more likely to be given a platform. This should be a brutal wake-up call for all of us; how many more women of colour are ignored and forced to suffer in silence?
You will be left feeling truly shaken to your core by the stories heard in On the Record. At times, you may find yourself pausing the documentary to wipe away your tears. Some of the content and the language used is shocking, but this is an essential documentary that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. One can only hope that it helps to give survivors the confidence and reassurance to come forward and allow their voices to be heard too.
On the Record is available on Sky Documentaries. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.