THOUGHT CRIMES | SUFF

Continuing our coverage of SUFF – SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL. The Sydney Underground Film Festival is dedicated to nurturing an alternative film culture through the promotion of independent and experimental films. The festival seeks to support filmmakers (especially those who operate outside established film industry infrastructures) by providing a platform for exhibition, exposure and critical discussion. It will be running from September 17th to 20th at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville and is showcasing some EPIC independent content. You can check out the festival schedule and buy tickets from HERE and you can stalk them on Facebook HERE.

To follow on from our SUFF reviews from the festival; HELLIONSTHEY LOOK LIKE PEOPLE and WE ARE TWISTED FUCKING SISTER, we have a grimace worthy documentary, THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP. Special thanks to the peeps at Kabuku PR for getting us involved in what will be a spectacular discovery of movies.

THOUGHT CRIMES plays Sunday 20th at SUFF and there are still a couple of tickets left – you can buy them HERE.

Enjoy Kernel Fiona’s review…….all the best…….JK.

 

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THOUGHT CRIMES | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER IMAGE

 

BY FIONA FYFE

What makes us guilty? How far can we take our fantasies and thoughts before we are committing a crime? Director Erin Lee Carr explores the dangers of our internet culture in the case of Gilberto Valle, an NYPD cop who was arrested on October 25 2012 after his wife reported him to police when she discovered he had been accessing a website called Dark Fetish Net. The site was a forum for dedicated deviants to indulge their fantasies of torture, rape and murder.

After his arrest, Valle admitted to regularly coming home from work and accessing the site while his wife and baby daughter were asleep in the next room. He discussed online his fantasy of slitting his wife’s throat, cooking her in an oven and then eating her. When he tired of fantasising about his wife as victim, he turned his attentions to other women whose details he would access through the police data base. Some of them he knew.

When he was eventually arrested he was charged with conspiracy to kidnap and unauthorised use of a police data base. The latter charge is a misdemeanour. The conspiracy charge could mean life in prison. He did in fact serve time in prison, seven months of which were spent in solitary confinement for his own protection. The interesting aspect about this case is that Valle never actually harmed anyone. He never took the next step or went beyond the preparation stage and yet he was arrested on the basis of the thoughts that were running around his head. This documentary explores the link between fantasy and action.

Just as Orwell’s 1984 traced the invasive thought monitoring of Winston Smith, Valle found himself in a similar dystopian nightmare. Director Lee Carr poses the question – is Google Searching just an extension of what we have in our heads? Just as literature is a window to an author’s thoughts, does Google expose our deepest thoughts and desires? It would seem we are entering unchartered territory. Civil libertarians discussing Valle’s case argued that thinking about committing heinous acts is not tantamount to committing an actual offence. I tend to agree.

 

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THOUGHT CRIMES | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | GILBERTO VALLE IMAGE

 

Three other men were charged as co-conspirators in this case. Michael Van Hise, an American, a man in Pakistan and a guy from England whose online name was Moody Blues. Valle would correspond with these men and describe a mountain retreat he had set up, complete with an industrial-sized oven and spit. He started googling details on how to make his own chloroform and he prepared a blue print for his plans – what materials he would need such as a plastic tarp, duct tape, etc. He later engaged in financial discussions with Van Hise about what sort of money he would have to pay to set up an abduction. In the event, no money ever changed hands, dates were missed and there was no oven or roast spit.

Valle was convicted in 2013 and spent some months under house arrest with his mother. His wife had divorced him during his first jail stint. At his mother’s house he indulges his passion for cooking. The irony of this is more than slightly amusing. Eventually Valle’s conviction is over- turned and he is a free man. His defence attorneys had argued that it’s permissible to have any thoughts you like no matter how depraved. To be guilty of an attempt you must go beyond the preparation point. In Valle’s case, his fantasies were sick and frightening – especially for his wife – but nothing actually happened.

Valle tells the camera that he liked the fact he could be someone else when he was on-line and that he would never have acted out any of the scenarios he described on Dark Fetish Net. Legal commentators discuss how Valle would have presented to a jury – a police officer who trawls through data bases fantasising about abducting, torturing, raping, cooking and eating women. While it’s reasonable that jurors would regard him as a weirdo or a creep, it shouldn’t be enough to convict him. The reasonable doubt principle should mean that an innocent man walks free despite his evil thoughts. If this isn’t the case, then we find ourselves living a version of Fahrenheit 451 or Minority Report.

 

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THOUGHT CRIMES | SYDNEY UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | GILBERTO VALLE OUTSIDE COURT IMAGE

 

This is not only an interesting documentary – it has some really humorous moments. After his conviction for conspiracy is overturned, Valle decides it’s time to get straight back on the dating sites and find a new girlfriend. He lists one of his hobbies as cooking. This gives talk back shock jocks hours of fodder. The Hannibal Lecter-style monster is now reduced to an object of ridicule. It’s cannibalism and beef stock gags all the way. A message from his ex-wife reads “I don’t know deep down whether you love me or want to eat me?” His mother, eagerly sampling an omelette that Valle has prepared, exclaims that the whole ordeal is completely outrageous! What were the police or his ex-wife thinking? Preposterous!

It’s no surprise that THOUGHT CRIMES was screened on HBO (it premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in May) given that network’s penchant for risqué material. What it achieves is an extensive look at how our search engines and internet history can potentially affect our lives. Perhaps we all need to be careful what we look at or download. Big Brother is watching.

 

4 Pops

 

 

Kernel Fiona was a criminal defence lawyer in a former life and now critiques books and writes short stories. She can’t resist spending large tracts of time in libraries, book shops and at writer’s festivals. Hopelessly in love with the written word, she told JK when applying for a writing position that “I would rather read then breathe” – I knew I had my next reviewer right then.