Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Tribeca with Abe: At the Heart of Gold

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which ran April 24th – May 5th.

At the Heart of Gold
Directed by Erin Lee Carr
Spotlight Documentary

When something terrible happens, there’s usually a subsequent effort to understand two things: how and why. The latter often comes first, as in the face of devastating occurrences, people seek answers about what might have motivated perpetrators and why innocents had to suffer as a result. When an action or series of events is revealed that demonstrates a pattern of problematic conduct and incomprehensible trajectory that was stopped by no one, how becomes the operative investigation. Not everything is preventable, but when so many signs exist and so many people had inclinations that something was not right, there is no reason that inappropriate behavior should be allowed to go unchecked.

For decades, Dr. Larry Nassar was a celebrated figure, a respected member of the staff at Michigan State University and the prominent physician of USA Gymnastics. Over the course of his career, Nassar interacted on a daily basis with young athletes and developed close relationships with most of them. While he was often perceived as the kind, compassionate adult in a world of harsh, grueling trainers, he was in fact the one doing the most damage, abusing at least 150 young women under the pretense of medical care. Despite questions being raised and reports being made, Nassar continued to operate freely long past when he should have, and the amount of inarguable evidence presented against him by so many during his trial was simply incredible.

For those who closely followed Nassar’s trial, this film may not prove additionally enlightening, but for anyone only vaguely familiar, it’s a staggering and powerful analysis, one that truly demonstrates the degree to which irresponsible activity was being allowed to constantly take place. Interviews with a number of athletes, from those who continue to compete to others who have long since moved on to other careers, are intimate and devastating, as they share just how close they felt to Nassar before they came to understand the depth of his abuse, disguised as care.

This film serves to equally pay tribute and give a voice to those might alternately consider themselves victims or survivors and to chronicle the series of events that permitted him to hurt people for so long. It will certainly be triggering for those who have undergone similar experience, and even those without any personal connection to the content will be unnerved and disturbed by the way that Nassar conducted himself and was protected by others who dismissed any charges of foul play made against him. This is an effective, important documentary, one that can hopefully be a part of changing a deeply troubled system.


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