Monday, May 25, 2020

Sasha Joseph Neulinger's REWIND: The sexual-abuse documentary to end them all. (If only.)

It is simply so strange to call a documentary about sexual abuse "wonderful." But, really, REWIND -- the first film, perhaps the only one necessary from fledgling director Sasha Joseph Neulinger -- is exactly that. More than anything else, I think, the reason for this is that Mr. Neulinger explores sexual abuse -- his own and that of his sister -- in such a way that, although the abuse indeed comes across as truly awful, the movie leaves not a trace of the usual sleazy, voyeuristic aftertaste that so many other films, despite perhaps their best intentions, nonetheless provide.

There is something so honest, direct and, well, kindly (yet not necessarily forgiving) about Neulinger's approach to everything and everyone we meet here (the filmmaker is shown at left) that his relatively short movie proves consistently riveting and finally inspiring. And god, no, I am not talking about yet another piece of "triumph-of-the-human-spirit" nonsense. His film is instead a terrible story and generational family saga told about as well as it could be, given the time, effort and rather small budget involved.

Sasha's family (that's mom and dad with their infant, below) had a video camera since the child was born and which his father often used -- his mom early on called it "a wall" (an opinion which I suspect many of us can easily relate to) -- and which Sasha himself begins using at a surprisingly early age.

This kid (below) was very bright from the get-go, but then, between kindergarten and first grade, that brightness dimmed -- why, by whom and for what reasons the remainder of the documentary explores from many angles and in surprising depth, considering its short, 86-minute length.

To go into much detail would spoil the film in a number of ways. Enough to say that, as Sasha delves into his and his family's past, speaking with everyone from family members to social workers, doctors, lawyers and police, what he uncovers and further explores is not merely unsettling and deeply disturbing but, due to the filmmaker/participant's combination of intelligence, perseverance and generosity, we emerge from the movie chastened and enhanced. As Sasha himself seems to do.

Certainly -- of course -- it would have been better had none of this horror happened. But it did. And it in the annals of "making the best of things," it seems to TrustMovies that Mr. Neulinger has done his share and one hell of a lot more. The end credits give us a proper update on everyone involved here. The participants include a very well-positioned and powerful cantor at Manhattan's most prestigious, Upper-East-Side synagogue, and even some majorly sleazy power players such as Rudy Giuliani and Cyrus Vance, Jr. (You may remember some of the reportage from the late-20th-Century time that all this was taking place.)

I could be wrong, since no one ever knows -- inadvertently or purposefully -- everything about anything, but this family would appear to have come through these events about as well as could be expected. So does the viewer. (That's Sasha and his younger sister Bekah: above, as children; below, as adults.)

From FilmRise, Rewind was to have opened theatrically this past March but is now streaming via VOD. It also had its broadcast premiere on PBS' Inde-pendent Lens earlier this month. However you choose to view it, do see it.

No comments: