Here’s today’s dispatch from the crossroads of faith, media and culture.

(Important Note: Below is my original review of the documentary An Open Secret. The documentary film deals with the issue of child sexual abuse in Hollywood. Some entries in the comments section below (combined with the charity registration issue mentioned in the original post) have given me some pause regarding the veracity of the film.  While the overall point that parents whose kids work in Hollywood should be very cautious about who they entrust the children to is no doubt true, it’s important to be fair to the accused. I have no way of knowing the truth so, if you see the film, I think it’s important to be aware of the questions raised about it. As for my recommendation, it assumes the facts in the film are all presented fairly — something which I now have some doubt about.) 

Exposing the dark side of Hollywood. An Open Secret is an eye-opening documentary and a cautionary tale for parents considering allowing their children to pursue the allure of movie and TV stardom. The film, which is now playing in New York and Los Angeles, grippingly and convincingly sheds light on the all-too-real threat of sexual predators in Hollywood. It’s of course unfair to suggest that they represent the entire entertainment industry but the dangerous sharks that would abuse children are prevalent enough that it might be worth considering hanging the words “Beware of” above LA’s  iconic “Hollywood” sign.

While the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church has rightfully drawn media attention and public scrutiny, it may be asking too much of media outlets to shed much light on Hollywood’s remarkably similar problem. After all, many major news outlets are outright owned by the same corporate interests that own Hollywood. It really is a good argument for breaking up media conglomerates that strangle or buy-up competition while holding subtle thought monopolies over how issues are presented (and, sometimes, not presented) to the public. At the very least, let’s hope An Open Secret leads to an open discussion about the need for stronger laws to better protect children from Hollywood’s sexual predators.

Notably, An Open Secret is directed by Amy Berg who also directed the 2006 Oscar-nominated doc Deliver Us From Evil which chronicled the story of Father Oliver O’Grady, a Catholic priest and serial child molester/rapist who was moved around to various U.S. parishes during the 1970s as Church officials attempted to cover up his crimes. We’ll see how much attention this film gets from the Academy. A potentially ominous sign: Producer Gabe Hoffman has written MPAA head Christopher Dodd a letter protesting the decision to slap the film with an R rating. Hoffman says a PG-13 rating is more appropriate, He argues the R rating keeps the film from being seen by many of the very same people it’s trying to warn. I think he makes a pretty good case and can’t help but wonder if the Academy isn’t already trying to squelch the film’s message.

The makers of An Open Secret deserve credit for going where other filmmakers would not dare. The issue merits more attention than it has received. As a cautionary film — that also is about healing and survival — An Open Secret is Highly Recommended. (Note re: recommendation –  See above note and comments below.)

I do, however, have one point of criticism. At the beginning of the movie, the audience is told via chyron that “Esponda Productions will donate the entirety of any profits received to the Courage to Act Foundation.” I thought it would be a good idea to link to the group’s website which you can find here.  I found a donation button but  very little in the way of detail about who’s involved and exactly how the organization spends the money it takes in — other than the rather vague line “Our mission increase efforts for the prevention of child sexual abuse within the entertainment industry and to support victims in their recovery.” I also stumbled onto a trademark registration site that reveals that the charity’s name is registered to Esponda Productions.

I’m not suggesting anything illegal — or that Esponda Productions doesn’t actually intend to use the funds raised for the stated purpose. I just think more transparency would be good for everyone.   

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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