PERVERT PARK | ANTENNA

Antenna Documentary Film Festival returns for its fifth season this October (13th-18th), screening the very best in non-fiction films from Australia and around the world, the Antenna DocTalk series, retrospective program and international guests. Screening the very best documentaries from across the globe, Antenna offers a program that is both intelligent and diverse; one that challenges conceptions and conventions of the world around us. It will be screening at the Chauvel, Verona and MCA cinemas.

This is the third year Salty Popcorn has loved and covered Antenna and to follow on from our first review of the festival FINDERS KEEPERS Kernel Emma hit up PERVERT PARK, another peculiar, and somewhat powerful film that looks at a caravan park that houses and attempts to rehabilitate a lot of sexual offenders. Enjoy Emma’s review……..all the best………JK.

 

pervert park movie poster image
PERVERT PARK | ANTENNA DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE POSTER

 

BY EMMA BISHOP

PERVERT PARK as the locals call it, is a rehabilitation centre for sexual offenders located in Florida, St Petersburg. Founded in the early 90s, as recently released sexual offenders struggled to find both employment and housing in the community, Florida Justice Transitions as its formally known was born. Given that many of the residents themselves are both perpetrators and victims – the need for a place of ‘rehabilitation’ was fundamental. Told in a “day in the life” style, the documentary is stylistically very simple, leaving the residents to do all of the talking. The content is very confronting and the resident’s stories are truly horrific. The documentary markets itself to a very select audience, one whom is comfortable listening to the detailed stories of sexual offenders, sympathising even. Not for the faint hearted, this is a challenging film and I am still struggling with what to make of it.

Observing the residents of Florida Justice Transitions in their daily counselling session we are given the impression of a calm and productive environment. Each of the residents talks openly about their crime and has an awareness of the significant harm they have caused their victims. It is striking to see that while the inside of a jail runs unruly, the recovering sex offenders co-exist quite naturally – happily even. There is a genuine sense of remorse in the room and the offenders do seem to understand just why their crimes have earned them such resentment by society. It isn’t until we observe the one-on-one interviews that the real horror begins to unfold.

 

pervert park movie image
PERVERT PARK | ANTENNA DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE IMAGE

 

From cyber sex to paedophilia and incest, the offences of the residents range from the unbelievable and horrific to the completely unfathomable. While there are offenders who appear to feel a sense of regret, there is an equal justification of their crimes that is scary to watch. Learning about the childhoods of many of the residents exposes an on-going cycle of sexual abuse. Many of the offenders witnessed sexual acts at a young age and many were themselves victims. It is a haunting and tragic existence for these offenders and given the exposure to such horrific acts from a young age many are deeply psychologically damaged. It is somewhat hard to imagine that anyone who is capable of these crimes and who has experienced such trauma can every truly be “rehabilitated.”

Unsurprisingly and with such transparency from the Government Bodies, Florida Justice Transitions is the subject of abuse from the wider community. All offenders’ personal details including photos are posted online and all potential employers are made fully aware of their crimes. While the offenders are no longer living in prison, they are reminded of their criminality day in and day out. One offender finds a sack of dead rats in his drier while another is spat on by a local resident. Integration back into society is simply not an option for the residents and many grapple with the reality that they will never be accepted again.

 

pervert park movie image
PERVERT PARK | ANTENNA DOCUMENTARY FILM FESTIVAL | SALTY POPCORN MOVIE REVIEW | MOVIE IMAGE

 

What came, as a surprise to me was the significantly low re-offending rate especially when hearing the residents attempt to rationalise their awful crimes. Not seeking to convince audiences to sympathise with the perpetrators in any way, PERVERT PARK instead tries to situate offending as the result of a series of events in one’s life and yet at times an inherent behavioural issue that cannot be explained by life experience. Basically the film humanises sexual offenders without in any way detracting from their horrific crimes. For this you have to give first time directors Frida and Lasse Barkfors credit, for an almost perfect subjective exploration of a very taboo and confronting subject matter.

While PERVERT PARK runs for just over an hour, I felt emotionally exhausted when the film finally ended. It never fails to amaze me what humans are capable of – but even more so the way in which we ostracise perpetrators who are indeed victims themselves. The crimes are sickening and it is an unfortunate reality that sexual offences are on the rise. The documentary is powerful and opening up a discussion around rehabilitation and cause and effect is tough but ultimately necessary. Enter thoughtfully with an open mind, but don’t expect to feel any less mortified on the way out.

 

3 and a Half Pops

 

 

Kernel Emma is documentary mad and also loves foreign and arthouse movies! She is Salty’s honorary NZ writer. 

 

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