Coming to theatres and to VOD today, Friday, April 15: THE SYNDROME
Meryl Goldsmith’s investigation of a disputed child abuse theory debuted at the Kansas International Film Festival in 2014. Fest screenings followed in Fargo, New Hampshire, Twin Cities, Newport Beach, and Arizona, among others.
Goldsmith, basing her work here on the investigative reporting conducted by her cousin, Susan Goldsmith, since the 1990s – credited here as a writer and producer – takes on Shaken Baby Syndrome, also known as the more general “abusive head trauma.” Diagnoses of SBS have been used to accuse and prosecute parents and other caretakers, but skepticism has developed as to the validity of the classification and the physical evidence that purports to support such charges. As argued here by the Goldsmiths and their research, there’s questions as to whether SBS even exists, or if it is instead an unfounded public health panic along the lines of the Satanic ritual abuse charges of the 1980s, which saw innocents imprisoned based on ill-formed medical conjecture and the suggestibility of small children. While the film offers some compelling interviews with experts and impacted parents, it goes a few steps too far in suggesting a kind of shadow conspiracy by a triumvirate of doctors – Chadwick, Reece, and Jenny – to somehow profit from promulgating SBS and by connecting them to doing the same from pushing the Satanic ritual abuse theory earlier. While the trio do not participate in the film, when questioned by other reviewers of the film, they have denied having anything at all to do with Satanic ritual abuse. It’s unclear where the accusation stems from, casting a pall over the overall validity of the arguments made here. Beyond that, the project is workmanlike in its approach, heavy on media montages and talking heads, making it more suited for the small screen.