DVD: In A Town This Size

In A Town This Size DVDSTUDIO: First Run Features | DIRECTOR: Patrick V. Brown
DVD RELEASE DATE: 10/22/2013 | PRICE: DVD $24.95
BONUSES: deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes footage, resource guide
SPECS: rating | 71 min. | genre | 1.77:1 widescreen | stereo | English subtitles

RATINGS (out of 5 dishes): Movie | Audio | Video | Overall

 

Somewhere before you reach the half-way point of Patrick V. Brown’s 2011 In A Town This Size, you realize this is not so much a documentary as it is a therapeutic tool for survivors of child abuse, not the least of which is Mr. Brown himself. Which makes it difficult to critique, as an objective report on the film’s strengths and failures is meaningless if you’re watching the film to make sense of such a trauma in your own life.

On that level, the film is a great resource, even more so if there is nothing like this out there for child abuse survivors to relate to. Wikipedia lists 26 other “child abuse” docs out there, though many of these are either about child trafficking, or abuse within the Catholic Church; what makes this film so interesting are the candid interviews given by a group of average, “folks-next-door” types in a small Oklahoma town. They speak about their experiences in such a humble, honest way, you’re brought into an understanding as a viewer in ways that you’ve probably not experienced before.

In A Town This SizeThe real value of the film is in how the story is revealed, not through cheesy voice-over narration but straight from the victims’ (and families’) own mouths—giving you a direct, first-hand account of this grueling tale, which involves a prominent neighborhood pediatrician who molested many of the town’s children during their routine checkups. He was such a fixture in the community, that even when allegations about his misconduct began to surface in the early 1970’s, response remained slow and skeptical. But the real kicker is the fact that, despite eventually being discredited some years later, he still resides in that town today- a social pariah that is nevertheless left alone.

Why he never moved away, or why the town never prosecuted him further is never fully explored; a statute of limitations has apparently saved him from legal prosecution, though the evidence is so overwhelming it seems odd that he could get away with such a crime so easily. But such was the climate in 1970’s middle-America, and this film is clearly the filmmaker’s way of dealing with the fact that his aggressor has never been brought to justice. Since the law did nothing, Brown took matters into his own hands, not with violence but with his video camera.

Brown is clearly not a filmmaker, and there are some genuinely amateurish elements on display here—but these are offset by his ability to gather strong interviews and assemble them into a coherent narrative. The DVD release boasts a few odd nuggets, including an epilogue that has little to do with the story itself (which remains unresolved) but follows Brown around his film festival screenings. Between that, a bonus interview of himself, and Brown’s frequent presence throughout the actual film, one senses that the filmmaker is a bit too self-obsessed for the movie’s own good, though it was probably necessary for his own. If In A Town This Size gives the world a clearer understanding of what it’s like to go through this nightmare, either as child or parent, then its done its job well.

 

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About Memo

Memo Salazar attempts many things and accomplishes few. His big three are making films, music, and comics, but he'll throw photography, graphic design and film criticism into the ring for good measure. He'll even make you a hand-painted t-shirt if you ask nicely. You can track his activity here when there's nothing else to do at work.