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Whitney Houston doc director on MeToo and bringing molestation allegations to light

Macdonald discusses disturbing allegations unveiled in his new documentary about Whitney Houston.

'It was the elephant in the room,' Kevin Macdonald says of his choice to name singer’s cousin Dee Dee Warwick

"Whitney," a documentary about Whitney Houston's life and career, hits theatres Friday, July 6. (Courtesy of The Whitney E. Houston Estate)
Listen23:05

In his latest documentary, Whitney, Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald takes us inside the world of the late Whitney Houston and exposes a disturbing revelation about a childhood trauma she suffered.

The allegation is uncovered about three-quarters of the way through the film, when friends of Houston reveal that both the singer and her half-brother, Gary, were allegedly molested as children by their cousin Dee Dee Warwick, sister of legendary singer Dionne Warwick.

In a conversation with q's Tom Power, Macdonald discusses how he came to the difficult decision to name Dee Dee in the documentary, considering that Dee Dee, who was 18 years older than Houston, died in 2008 and cannot address the allegations. 

"While we were debating this — it was back in November or December of last year — [it was] exactly when the Harvey Weinstein revelations had come out and the Me Too movement was growing," says Macdonald. 

It was the elephant in the room. Not just for Whitney's sake, but for the sake of other people who maybe felt like they too were ashamed.- Kevin Macdonald

"There seemed to be this feeling that the victim should be believed and the victim should be empowered. When I spoke to Mary Jones, Whitney's assistant, she was adamant that this had to come out. It was the elephant in the room. Not just for Whitney's sake, but for the sake of other people who maybe felt like they too were ashamed or they too didn't want to name the person who had abused them." 

According to sources in the film, the alleged abuse occurred when Houston was seven or eight years old. She never revealed the incidents to her mother or to the therapists who, later in her life, tried to help her with drug addiction. Macdonald tells Power that Houston's half-brother Gary "still talks about it now as the thing that drives his own addiction."

British director Kevin MacDonald poses on May 17, 2018 during a photocall for the film "Whitney" at the 71st edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France. (AFP/Getty Images)

No one from the Warwick family has responded to the allegations because Macdonald felt it would be "irresponsible" and "unfair" to ask Dee Dee's sibling Dionne if the allegations were true.

"I know they've seen the film, they were upset by the film, I know that, but I haven't heard any more detail than that. As I said, other members of the family ... have come to the conclusion that this was a good thing," Macdonald tells Power.

While Houston's story has been documented before, this is the first biopic to be authorized by the Whitney Houston Estate.

Whitney opens in theatres in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal on Friday, July 13. The film will be released in more theatres across North America on Friday, July 20.


Click listen at the top of this post to hear the full interview with Macdonald, where he also discusses Houston's life and legacy and what he felt was missing from her story.

Written by Vivian Rashotte. Interview with Kevin Macdonald produced by Vanessa Greco.

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