Hot Docs 2015: Pervert Park Review

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Surely one of the most challenging entries in this year’s Hot Docs, Pervert Park dares to give a voice to and even strives to find empathy for a group of people who most viewers would rather pretend didn’t exist. The film is about a community of convicted sex offenders struggling to reingratiate themselves back into the world in a trailer park in Florida. Directed by husband and wife team Lasse and Frida Barkfors, Pervert Park admirably attempts to approach the topic without judgment. The filmmakers merely follow around their subjects and let them tell their stories. There’s no need for any emotional manipulation or button-pushing. That’s all inherent in the subject matter, so no benefit would come from the filmmakers imposing their own baggage onto a movie already overflowing with delicate difficulty. 

The doc unfolds tentatively. One-by-one, a handful of the trailer park residents tell their stories (all of which sadly involve children). Unsurprisingly, they’re virtually all victims of abuse caught in a repeating cycle. Aside from a young man who was unfortunately caught in a craigslist sting with questionable tactics from the authorities, none of the Barkfors’ subjects plead for forgiveness or deny their crimes. They recognize their guilt and merely seek a place where they can go on with their lives quietly after having served their prison time. It’s hard to argue with that point of view, yet difficult to find sympathy in light of the crimes. That’s the tricky question at the core of Pervert Park: what should be done with sex offenders who have served their required prison term, but obviously shouldn’t pick up a job at Wal-Mart the following week?

The Barkfors offer no answers because there are none to give. Yet, merely providing a venue for this issue to be discussed and these voices to be heard without value judgment offers an undeniably fascinating experience. The film was a prize-winner in Sundance and certainly deserves attention and debate, but many viewers will find the Pervert Park impossible to watch.

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Screens:

Monday, April 27, 9:00pm @ Isabel Bader Theatre
Tuesday, April 28, 3:45pm @ TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Friday, May 1, 7:00pm @ Hart House Theatre

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