Cinequest, United Nations Association
The impact of early childhood trauma is explored via longitudinal portraits incorporating the filmmaker’s decades-long documentary career.
Oscar-nominated director Roger Weisberg draws from his previous projects of the 1980s-2000s, incorporating footage of children and teen subjects and following up with them in the present day as young adults to demonstrate the impact of traumatic experiences and of unstable homes on health and well-being. The central question is why some children succumb to adversity while others persevere, measured by ACES – Adverse Childhood Experience Scores – which have been shown to not only contribute to repetitions of cycles of poverty and violence, but also to negative health consequences. Weisberg’s longitudinal portraits include individuals who have suffered negative outcomes, like Yvonne and Bobby, a harried African American mother living in poverty and her most troubled son, who have experienced depression and further biological health consequences, continuing into the next generation; as well as those who have managed to persevere, like Daniela, who met her ex-husband in a group home as a teen and became a teen mother, but has been unwilling to let her own children fall into the same cycle, as has happened to her ex. The story of brothers Danny and Raymond, who were neglected and abandoned by their drug addicted mother, illustrate that children in the same traumatic environment can have very different outcomes from one another. Advances in the measurement of the impact of ACES have allowed for better early intervention, which has a cascading benefit both socially and economically. While the stories are affecting, Weisberg’s filmmaking approach feels very dated, employing voice of God narration and talking heads that result in a project that looks like it was made in the 1980s rather than today.