Now here’s a film I don’t really know what to think about…
Six boys, and a girl, kept behind locked doors in lower east side Manhattan for 14 years. Home schooled by their mother and seemingly mostly abandoned by their bitter at life alcoholic father. Raised watching films and reenacting them as their pastime.
It’s an interesting human experiment, something all of us have thought about at some point in time – what would happen, if someone would be raised in isolation and then presented to the modern society…? Here we have a documentary about a family of 9 in exactly that situation and in the middle of one of the most densely packed cities of the world. So is it a worthy documentary or is it intruding very publicly into the lives of a family that is seemingly very incapable of handling any sort of publicity or even life in general? And how’d things turn out?
Well, the boys turn out to be adolescent Tarantinos, who worship film and without any sort of education to hone their eye, they just have kept at watching films for so long and with such intensity that they have developed some sharp eyes towards it in any case. They turn out to finally rebel against the father, who keeps them locked away and start to explore the world, or NYC at least. Apparently after the film, they’ve found spots in the crews of various independent film productions and some have even something that resembles the start of a career within the film industry.
The daughter isn’t much shown – I think probably out of protection. The mother is presented as trapped by the situation. Would’ve left the abusive patriarch of the family, if not for wanting to offer at least some protection to the kids. The father is mostly shown drunk or angry. There are hints of physical violence in addition to the overwhelming mental violence he employs to control the whole family. Seemingly, as his alcoholism progressed, he slowly lost control and interest in the family to the point, where rebellion was actually possible. The father has some realization over what he has done, as he offers some weak excuses on wanting to protect the kids from the depraved ways of the big city people. Still, he raised his kids with violent films mostly situated in big cities and offered very little context for them, so the kids grew up idolizing urban life and violence as presented in films. We are not told, if the door was locked or not.
In the end, no matter how worthy the subject might be, the film is a jackpot of yellow paper journalism – they found an untouched weirdo family and had the exclusive rights at presenting all of that to the world. I’m having a hard time finding something to like within that premise.
But as mentioned, the film has propelled some of the kids towards careers in their dream business and the film at least attempts to be gentle with the family. Backstory tells us that the director befriended the family and only with the express permission of the family, shot the film. So maybe there’s something of worth here in the end.
- Director: Crystal Moselle
- Watched on: October or November 2016
- Watched at: TV broadcast on Yle Teema