Sundance 2015: ‘Pervert Park’ a disquieting tale of sex offenders banding together for survival

A still from "Pervert Park" Image Courtesy of The Sundance Institute
A still from “Pervert Park” Image Courtesy of The Sundance Institute

Pervert Park

Directed and written by Frida Barkfors and Lasse Barkfors

Denmark/Sweden/USA, 2015

A sad tale of a close-knit community built on tragedy and trying to edge out an existence in the aftermath of their own making frames the gritty documentary Pervert Park. 120 sex offenders living in a trailer park termed Florida Justice Transitions talk out how they came to such a desperate place through counseling sessions and communal healing. This cluster of convicted sex offenders must stay away from children, schools, bus-stops and other places where they are seen as a threat to the public. While many grew up amidst abuse, others had no such excuses. The subjects explain themselves to the camera, giving us stories of pain perpetuated throughout generations, how moments of stupidity echo through decades, the effects of sensory addiction, and various tales of entrapment.

Pervert Park is uncomfortable and cringe-worthy but fleshes out a portion of the United States population that is brushed under the rug when they’re not being singled out for how dangerous they may be. These people live at the margins (mostly for good reasons) and struggle to survive as society rejects them. Talking out what they have done and what effect it may have had on their victims is stomach churning and the filmmakers wisely lay whatever the offenders have to say before us bare and unflinching: A man frustrated with his relationship abducts and rapes a 5 year old girl in Mexico, a mother uses her son sexually to impress an online boyfriend and a widower denies his gross culpability in sexually harassing young women who vulnerably come across his path. There is no end result to all of this except trying to talk about what happened and think about the line that can’t be uncrossed. Shame, guilt, and denial all swirl around to create a terrible cloud of torment that can’t be dissipated. The camera simply hovers, listens, follows their daily lives, and moves on after they haven’t any more to say. This direct approach is affecting and troubling.

Pervert Park is all about the never-ending, spiraling consequences of sexual abuse and how these criminals can’t escape their acts publicly or privately. Not for the faint of heart, Pervert Park doesn’t ask anyone to forgive or forget but rather to consider the myriad of different contexts that these individuals come from and that the pain goes on without society enforcing it.

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