Film : Breaking the silence
Actor/director/novelist Angela Shelton's powerful and award-winning documentary, "Searching for Angela Shelton," breaks the lock on discussing child abuse. It will be shown Friday, April 24, in a screening sponsored by the Martha's Vineyard Film Society and CONNECT of Martha's Vineyard Community Services.
A representative from CONNECT, Martha's Vineyard's center for abuse prevention and intervention, will answer questions after the film.
You may recognize the director's name from the award-winning "Safe Side" video series about child safety, where Ms. Shelton plays Superchick. She has also written an autobiographical novel, "Tumbleweeds," which provided the source material for a movie by the same name in 1999, winning an Oscar nomination for its lead actor, Janet McTeer.
"Searching for Angela Shelton" is a 2004 documentary that took a multi-talented young woman on a two-month, cross-country odyssey to interview the nation's other Angela Sheltons. It is an interesting premise.
An Internet search uncovered 55 Angela Sheltons, and she manages to contact 30 of them. The shocker is that most of them have been raped, beaten, or molested. "What does this say about the rest of the woman out there?" Ms. Shelton asks.
A lot of her subjects don't want to be interviewed at first, because they're afraid of hurting their families. Eventually, though, 15 of them change their minds. One who doesn't is an alcoholic abused by her father, who considers herself "lower than a dog."
That Ms. Shelton appears periodically throughout the documentary in conversation with the director. She's a heartbreaking reminder of the victims of abuse who suffer almost irreparable damage.
Interestingly enough, though, most of the Angela Sheltons the director meets work in the healthcare field, and others are in law enforcement or studying psychology, no doubt ways to overcome the damage done by the abuse they've suffered. One even hunts down sexual predators.
"Searching for Angela Shelton" proceeds in a deceptively straightforward, in some ways even light-hearted fashion, as Ms. Shelton travels across the country in a large motorized home with cameraman and crew, contacting one Angela Shelton after another and occasionally hamming it up for the camera.
Inserted periodically to startling effect are facts and statistics about sexual and physical abuse. One in six women in the U.S. will be raped at some point in their lives. Most often, the abuser doesn't go to jail, and law enforcement personnel may be among the most frequent offenders. Depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and suicidal thoughts are common among the abused. Comments made by the women interviewed, such as "There's a reason for everything that happens," or "You can get over anything if you try," occasionally seem like bromides, until you consider the damage done to their psyches as children or young adults.