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Voices Unheard

Continuing the exploration of violence she has pursued in her art installations, feature pic "Two Small Bodies" and short "Out of Sight, Out of Mind," New York filmmaker Beth B. forges an hourlong doc about sexual abuse in America, mostly committed by juveniles. The filmmaker focuses on the Midwest, and the omission of minorities and urban sophisticates as subjects is condescending and represents a major flaw. A few riveting confessionals and info gleaned from experts guarantee some interest.

Continuing the exploration of violence she has pursued in her art installations, feature pic “Two Small Bodies” and short “Out of Sight, Out of Mind,” New York filmmaker Beth B. forges an hourlong doc about sexual abuse in America, mostly committed by juveniles. The filmmaker focuses on the Midwest, and the omission of minorities and urban sophisticates as subjects is condescending and represents a major flaw. A few riveting confessionals and info gleaned from experts guarantee some interest, though probably limited to specialized webs and doc fests.

Beth B. confines her survey to treatment centers in rural and small-town Indiana and Ohio. Subjects are all white, grammatically challenged (except for a few articulate counselors and facility heads) and seemingly working-class. Specialists interviewed range from those who favor punitive action to some who are more therapeutic, even experimental, in their approach to treating the highly stigmatized sexual abusers of infants and adolescents.

Individual stories of perpetrators serve to humanize them somewhat, but director tends to cut quickly from one to another, diluting impact. Most abusers have been abused themselves and have learned that they have passed on their feelings of being “damaged property” to others.

Among pic’s many talking heads, some are blocked out by pixilation or shadows, and a number of voices are doctored to conceal identities and are often hard to understand. Pic suffers from voiceovers and piano and violin music that feel gratuitous. Inclusion in tracking shots of white picket fences and other staples of Americana only reinforces the sense that the filmmaker has researched only a minuscule section of country.

Voices Unheard

Production: A B Prods. production. (International sales: International Creative Exchange, Valencia, Calif.) Co-producers, Sara Diamond, Media Arts Program, Banff Centre for the Arts, with assistance from the New York State Council on the Arts. Directed by Beth B. Camera (color), Phil Parmet, Tony Hettinger;

Crew: editor, Melody London; music, Jim Filer Coleman; sound, Daniel McIntosh, Jon Dunlap. Reviewed at New York Women's Film Festival, April 26, 1998. Running time: 58 MIN.

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