Gwen van de Pas
Discovery+ (March 2021)
The filmmaker confronts the manipulation and sexual abuse she suffered from an older man.
In her youth in Holland, filmmaker Gwen van de Pas had a secret boyfriend who sent her letters, gave her gifts, and made her feel special. But she was a preteen, and he was an adult, and now, years later, van de Pas recognizes that she was a victim, and that this older man manipulated her into a sexual relationship. He also never faced any consequences – and, she realizes, who’s to say she was his only victim? Seeking to make sense of her past – and to expose his crimes – she sets out to explore how perpetrators carefully groom their victims, identifying and exploiting their vulnerabilities and making them co-conspirators and even apologists in their abuse. While disturbing and at times illuminating – particular an extended, candid interview with a convicted perpetrator, who functions as a proxy of sorts for her abuser – the project sometimes crosses the line into filmmaking-as-therapy, and suffers from some clunky storytelling and technical aspects, including an overly heavy score, that ultimately hamper its effectiveness.