Daily Archives: November 11, 1994

The Boys of St. Vincent

This unforgettable two-part Canadian TV docudrama (1992) deals forcefully though not exploitatively with a very delicate subject–the sexual abuse and sadistic treatment of boys at a Catholic orphanage in Newfoundland by some of the religious brothers assigned to take care of them. Suggested by real-life events (and consequently held back from public broadcast while a related investigation was under way), the two 95-minute features are sensitively directed by John N. Smith and cogently written by Smith, Des Walsh, and Sam Grana. The first part focuses on the relationship between a key offender and a ten-year-old who has been singled out as “his boy,” leading to a complaint lodged by a janitor and a subsequent police investigation followed by a hasty cover-up. The second part charts the reopening of the case 15 years later, when the offender, who has long since left the order to become a respectable husband and father, is summoned to a hearing, along with his victim and a key witness, both young men now. Neither homophobic nor psychologically pat, the film doesn’t make the mistake of pretending to offer the last word on the subject, and is striking most of all for the nuanced performance of Henry Czerny as the main offender, though all the acting is first-rate.… Read more »

Complaints of a Dutiful Daugher and Fast Trip, Long Drop

These exceptional personal documentaries add up to a potent double bill; of the nonfiction films in the festival that I’ve seen, these are in many ways the best. Deborah Hoffman’s Complaints of a Dutiful Daughter, which deals only in passing with the fact that the director’s a lesbian, is a beautifully precise, acute, intelligent, practical, touching, and even (at times) comic record of how she copes with her discovery that her mother has Alzheimer’s disease. Using video and audio recordings of her interactions with her mother and some on-camera statements of her own, Hoffman charts in haunting detail precisely what memory loss entails, not only for her mother but for herself as she adjusts to the situation. Full of wisdom and insight, this 44-minute essay film is far from depressing. The same is true of Gregg Bordowitz’s 54-minute, deconstructive Fast Trip, Long Drop (1993), an autobiographical essay about the filmmaker’s 1988 discovery that he’d tested HIV-positive and his subsequent life, including his decision to quit drugs and drinking and come out to his mother and stepfather. Making semiironic use of silent found footage and Jewish music, Bordowitz speaks about his late father and his sex life; he also includes conversations with various friends (including filmmaker Yvonne Rainer), his own documentary footage of AIDS rallies, a tour of his bookshelves, and a bitter parody of the way the media have treated AIDS.… Read more »