Film can be a powerful tool. It can serve as a conversation starter, and allow you to experience something without having to get your hands dirty. Pervert Park has to be the darkest, most disturbing film coming out of the Annapolis Film Festival this year, and probably one of the bravest choices by its’ programming committee. Someone saw the opportunity to use film as a conduit to a conversation on a generally rarely talked about topic and let the viewer come to their own conclusions about it.
Pervert Park captures the stories of select individuals that live in Florida Justice Transitions, a trailer park in St. Petersburg, Florida. In Florida, sex-predator laws are in place where offenders can not live within 1,000 feet of places where children regularly assemble. Sexual offenders are looked at as the lowest of society, but they all have a story. Directors Frida and Lasse Barkfors capture the stories of park residents with no cinematic flare, just straight shooting and following.
The stand out story in the doc is that of Tracy Hutchinson, who was abused by her father as early as second grade. By the age of 11 she had already had an abortion, and years later she seduced her own son, who later molested a 3 year old boy. Hearing Tracy confess about taking her son’s trust and dismantling it by sexually abusing him is absolutely heart wrenching. The guilt, shame, and deep regret is so apparent that it’s hard not to get emotional yourself. It’s clear that a life of abuse had adverse affects on her, but her vulnerability in being honest and apologetic can be felt on a gut level.
While everyone in the film seems to take ownership of their crimes, they also seem to rationalize them with twisted logic. If there is one thing that is clear from the film, it’s that getting help and being open about abuse is a necessary resource. Many of the individuals in the film kept their past pain buried inside and hidden from society, which in their particular stories manifested into sexual offenses. It shows how much counseling can play a key role in an attempt to transform and unlearn behavior.
Watching the film is an absolute test in self control, staying in your seat and sitting through it. (Plenty of people walked out of the screening.)There is no way of getting around the fact that it is a disturbing documentary on a soul level. The filmmakers obviously worked to keep a balance of letting you hear the horror, and then changing the tone to something that humanizes the offenders. Most people won’t view a documentary like this, but for those who can stomach it, it examines and challenges how and why we should deal with the taboo issue.