Inadmissible Testimony

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I always knew my lengthy interview in July for an upcoming TV documentary might go unused, even though the company making it, Testimony Films, made a considerable investment in my appearance. They gave me two nights’ hotel accommodation and other expenses, and committed a five-strong production crew to an entire day’s filming and studio hire in London, over 100 miles from their Bristol base, solely for my input.

A couple of weeks ago, as briefly reported here in response to a request for a progress report, I said I had received an email from Testimony saying “As this is such a difficult and controversial subject it is taking a very long time to make – and to go through the [name of TV channel] system. There have been several discussions with the [name of TV channel] lawyer over the content. The final shape of the programme still hasn’t been decided. There is no transmission date as yet.”

I was under a commitment not to name the TV channel until the last week before transmission. That time is now up. I now know that the programme, titled The Paedophile Next Door, is to be aired next Tuesday, 25 November, at 9pm on Britain’s Channel 4. I have been informed it will not contain any footage of the interview I gave, which lasted around two and a half hours.

This is disappointing, but I would not be particularly upset if I thought it was going to be a good programme anyway. I always hoped that if my contribution proved a bit too controversial for Channel 4 they might nevertheless be willing to give a platform to someone like Judith Levine, or Bruce Rind, or a British academic such as Glenn Wilson, who put up a spirited if all-too-brief showing on the same channel’s news output recently: PIE spy, with my tabloid eye…

All the signs are, though, that the programme will not be good. From a heretical standpoint it looks like being far worse than I had expected, indeed such an utter disaster I am feeling totally gutted even before seeing it. Am I prejudging too much? We’ll soon see.

I suspect Testimony are embarrassed. It seems they wanted to keep me in the dark as long as possible in case I went public too early and tried to derail things. Unbeknown to me, Channel 4 issued a bulletin about the upcoming programme on the 7th of this month, including its release date. But on the 10th, three days later, in response to my enquiries, Testimony were telling me there was still no release date and did not give me C4’s programme information.

The Testimony people have been very friendly and they definitely did not set out with the cynical intention of setting me up as a pantomime villain. Director Steve Humphries has a strong reputation as a documentary maker with an interest in a diversity of voices. He gives every impression of being a man of broad sympathies; his interview style is empathetic.

It is possible Channel 4 insisted on taking the production in another direction from the one first envisaged by Humphries. It may be significant that a second director’s name is now on the credits: Rudolph Herzog, son of the world renowned Werner Herzog. Herzog fils appears to be based in Germany, with no obvious connection to Testimony. His location, however, would make him well placed to explore Germany’s Prevention Project Dunkelfeld, highlighted in Jon Henley’s feature article on paedophilia for the Guardian last year.

Channel 4’s programme information begins thus:

With almost every passing week a new child sex abuse scandal breaks. In this sobering and thought-provoking film, historian and acclaimed social documentary maker Steve Humphries sets out to discover why all the elaborate policies and legislation put in place to protect children from sexual abuse have failed.

He discovers some radical new solutions proposed by an increasing number of child protection experts which challenge our deep-rooted attitudes and emotional reactions to paedophiles. They tell Humphries that many paedophiles live in our midst and go completely undetected. “They’re not monsters with horns and tails, but ordinary blokes,” says senior lecturer Dr Sarah Goode – and this makes them so dangerous and difficult to identify. Controversially, Dr Goode believes that the most promising way to reduce the number of child abuse cases is to encourage paedophiles who have not yet targeted children to “come out” and receive treatment.

This theory is supported by an extraordinary interview in which Humphries meets a man face-to-face who confesses, on camera, to his strong sexual attraction for children as young as five. He claims that he has not interfered with a child, nor could ever imagining doing so. He is so desperate for help that he is prepared to ‘out’ himself in the hope that men like him will be more readily offered support to manage their unwanted desires.

Paedophiles are the most vilified of all criminals – invoking universal hatred and disgust. Humphries hears from experts who explain that, as a result, the fear, self-loathing and stress paedophiles will associate with their desires makes them actually more likely to offend. Humphries explores pioneering schemes and initiatives designed to help paedophiles before they might hurt children. These ground-breaking schemes aim to educate families and encourage men to seek help – some of them provide residential support and treatment confidentially. Supporters of these initiatives believe they will keep children safe and are far more effective – rather than engaging with them only after they become offenders…

You get the picture. It looks as if this will be “virtuous” shit from start to finish. If I feel gutted, it is because the ideology of repression has won decisively in a direct contest with that of self-determination. I am gutted because I spilled my guts out for that interview and I know it was a good one, after a lot of preparation and an emotionally draining encounter with Humphries. It was all the tougher, oddly, thanks to his gently searching style. His kindness was killing. My answers could only come from the heart, at times painfully so when the questions reached deeply into the personal realm, – a place no aggressive inquisitor could touch; the defences would be up.

I’m not putting it too strongly when I say I feel betrayed, especially by the apparently central role given to Sarah Goode and her piss-poor thinking, which I believe I adequately demolished in my review of her book Paedophiles in Society and its predecessor – a review Humphries certainly knew about because I alerted him to it in an email back in May.

But to claim I have been betrayed by Testimony, or by Steve Humphries in particular, would be grossly unfair. I am confident Steve fought as hard as he could for my inclusion. That does not mean he shares my views, though, and I probably underestimated the extent to which he was keeping his cards close to his chest on that.

As for whether I really had performed strongly, was this just an illusion? Here’s the relevant part of what Steve emailed the next day:

I just wanted to say thanks so much for coming down for the filmed interview, which was as excellent and as powerful as I’d hoped it would be. I thought you told your personal story and stated your case as strongly as anyone could. I know the team…really enjoyed meeting you too and found it a moving and hugely interesting day…

A few days ago, “Bloom” wrote in the comments here “It would be interesting to get your take on the controversy over contact vs non-contact. Not so much on the question itself, which is somewhat abstract, but on how you see it affecting the overall struggle for greater tolerance and acceptance.”

First of all, I agree with another commentator, “Stephen6000”, that “pro-choice” is a better expression than “pro-contact”, although, it will be seen that I have opted above for “self-determination”, which avoids confusion with abortion. Also, I don’t think self-determination is too abstract, but what Bloom perhaps meant to say was too academic, as in the expression “it’s all a bit academic” i.e. it ain’t gonna happen anytime soon, so why bother talking about it?

If that was the intended meaning it undeniably amounts to a strong argument, not least in view of this Channel 4 programme: I tried to talk about sexual self-determination but who was listening? No one ever does these days. So what’s the point of banging on about it?

Presumably Bloom is pleased to see controversy over self-determination taken out of the equation by Channel 4. That leaves The Paedophile Next Door, and any similar presentation of MAPs, free to focus on “tolerance and acceptance”, right?

Well, sure, and that would be a good thing if it were taking us in the right direction. Politics is often characterised as the art of the possible. The way to reach an ultimate goal is to focus on small, incremental achievements. You don’t frighten the horses by seeming to be insanely radical.

I understand that. But what if those small steps are heading in the wrong direction, leading away from one’s ultimate objective? The “tolerance and acceptance” aimed at in VP efforts is not tolerance and acceptance of sexual self-determination, after all, but it’s exact opposite i.e. an outcome that cements intolerance and non-acceptance of sexual self-determination permanently in place and depends upon brainwashing and coercing MAPs into submission.

This represents a repudiation of all I believe in and I cannot support it.

I will watch the programme, though, through gritted teeth. As long as I am publicly engaged in blogging and such like, I feel I have a duty to keep myself informed. It will not be easy. One of those taking part, unless I am greatly mistaken, is Ian McFadyen, who is fast becoming a full-time professional victim. I don’t relish the thought of having to watch this self-righteous bully’s “dignified exchange”, as the programme info puts it, with a paedophilic self-sacrificial lamb.

McFadyen, to be sure, was genuinely the victim of a sadistic rapist on the staff of Caldicott Preparatory School if his story is true, and I have no particular reason to doubt it. As a result, it seems, he is now determined to victimise anyone who crosses him, including his old school pal Nick Clegg – yes, that Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat MP who has been deputy prime minister of the UK since 2010. McFadyen was recently quoted as saying, “I’m definitely really angry with Nick Clegg… he’s been a real disappointment. I’m actually ashamed to have gone to school with him.”

Gosh, you might wonder, what’s poor old Cleggie been up to now? Nothing illegal, it turns out, though it might be thought so from McFadyen’s wrath. It’s just that Clegg had failed to back McFadyen’s demand for a massive inquiry into historic sexual abuse. See what I mean about the “bully” thing?

McFadyen has plenty of reason to feel traumatised and angry, of course, and it behoves us heretics to advocate for a more open society (including more accountability in schools) so that dreadful experiences like his are not repeated. But it is characteristic of so-called sympathetic programmes, including this latest Channel 4 one, that their purported sympathy for non-active paedophiles tends to be yoked together with truly extreme and appalling cases of abuse. Far from increasing sympathy for the average paedophile, the likely outcome of this pairing is to crank up the fear of paedophilia to a heightened extreme, so that even the most virtuous VP will come under ever more intense suspicion and scrutiny – and insistence that they do not go anywhere near kids.

For a bit of realistic balance, we could do worse than turn to some recent revelations by TV personality and former Tory MP Gyles Brandreth. He told the Daily Mail a couple of months ago he had been “abused” by a choir master at his prep school.

“I suppose I liked him,” said Brandreth. “At least, I was flattered by his attention. I think I felt it was my due. I was 11, 12 and 13 when this was happening, and quite full of myself. Mr Harkness took lots of photographs of me. We both admired the results.”

Also:

“Has this experience of being a victim of child abuse had a lasting effect on me? I certainly don’t feel traumatised by it, nor even resentful. I did not complain then, and I am not complaining now.”

It is no accident, I feel, that neither Brandreth, nor anyone with a comparable experience, is being featured on the Channel 4 programme so far as I can tell. They wouldn’t want to spoil their “misery memoir” narrative with any happiness, would they?

Paedophilia more popular than icecream in 2007

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Pedophilia has been more popular than icecream since about 1979. Paedophilia, however, has always been less popular than icecream except in just one year, 2007, when it enjoyed a brief moment of glory, pulling ahead of icecream only to fall back again the following year.

Heretic TOC was inspired to make these discoveries following comments on Boy Chat about Ice-Cream Hands, the short film introduced here in the previous blog, ‘Harmless’ paedos venture out of the shadows. In the BC thread, “cabinet maker” found the film “creepy as shit”, adding “the ice cream man is a pedophile? how much more stereotypical can we get?” On the other hand “Kit” said “Love the ice cream-man cliche.”

While opinions of the film itself ranged from rave to rubbish, nobody disputed that it was indeed a cliché to make the paedophilic Mr Sprinkles an ice-cream seller.

I wasn’t so sure. Yes, any ice-cream van is a kid magnet, so it would make sense for the connection to be a cliché, but I couldn’t immediately think of another film, TV programme, book, painting or any other medium in which this connection was expressed. Then I recalled Chester the Molester, the comic strip character from Hustler magazine. The strip ran for years, with Chester depicted comically (feminists of the po-faced variety will disagree) setting up all manner of ruses to get into kids’ pants, so surely he must have been depicted selling ice-cream? I was never a Hustler reader myself so I can only guess, but googling soon revealed that others have made their own connection, and in the following case linked it to evidence (albeit unsourced and with no details) from news stories involving errant ice-cream vendors:

Chester Molester The Ice Cream Truck Driver
Tuesday, October 11, 2005

It has been brought to my attention that this summer has been a time for creepy, mullet wearing, goatee sporting, shit eating grin men to come out of the woodwork and mess with our young ones.
On the news today I heard of three…Count em three cases where Ice cream truck drivers have bribed children into taking there clothes off for free icecream. Not only that These molesting mother fuckers are taking photos of it too!
Apparently the story goes as followed:
Chester the Molester finds unsuspecting children on the streets while riding around in the molester mobile…Otherwise known as the ice cream truck. Once the kids stop the man, if they’re right for the picking Chester offers them a ride in his pimp ass ice cream truck. Now, if I were a child and was offered a ride in an ice cream truck I probably would have gone too…So don’t blame the kids, they’re just kids.
Once inside the truck, Chester starts his molestation trap. Next thing you know the kids walk out of the truck slightly confused but with a bombsicle tightly gripped in there hands.
Chester gets off easy with his photographs with his naked children…And then he’s off to the next neighborhood.

It turns out that comedian Tim Minchin, has very effectively milked the ice-cream theme too. His Häagen-Dazs-level performance is probably the cream of the cream but, not to be licked (sorry!), the amateur jokesters are hanging in there.

Putting up some admirable resistance to this damning image is Lenore Skenazy at her admirable Free-Range Kids website (“How to raise safe, self-reliant children”). Skenazy, as some heretics here will surely know, hit the headlines a while back after allowing her nine-year-old son to ride home alone on the New York City Subway, and has written a book on less paranoid parenting. In an article titled “Does Ice Cream Man = Pervert?” she notes the fusion of the two in popular culture, “like the twin sticks of a Popsicle”. She objects vigorously in this piece to a proposal for state and federal fingerprint-based criminal history checks on people applying for ice cream van vending licences.

Some of her readers backed her up, pointing out that ice-cream vending is a very public business, and anyone selling from a van is firmly separated from his customers. The traditional department store Santa Claus has a much greater chance of a grope in his grotto. As for teachers, scout leaders and sports coaches, they all enjoy a long-term lust licence, while the opportunities for illicit intimacy open to close relatives, including siblings and parents, are absolutely endless and not infrequently taken.

I was an ice-cream man myself, as it happens, so I can speak from some experience! It was just a brief student job before I went into teaching. It was nice to make the kiddies happy (only with the ice-cream!) but also a much tougher job than might be thought: you have to work hard at building up a profitable round and it isn’t always easy: there are turf wars; a good pitch will be fiercely contested. Yes, you can bribe kids with free ice-cream and invite them into your vehicle, but only at tremendous risk to yourself. Not that bribery would be necessary. Kids ask if they can come aboard and plead to be taken for a ride.

You wouldn’t think that, though, from the supposed victims’ tales of woe in a tabloid yarn earlier this year headlined “Jimmy Savile’s mayor pal ‘preyed on young lads.’ ” This was a Daily Star story about an alleged “paedophile ice-cream tycoon known as the King of the Cornets” who was mayor of the English seaside town of Scarborough. He was said to have employed boys part-time and molested them going home in his van at night after work – while actually driving, it seems. Clearly, a very dangerous man! Nothing was ever proved against him and conveniently for the paper he died in 1999 so is in no position to sue for libel. In fact, it’s a great tab story for three reasons: there’s a villain who is a major local employer and politician, hence too big to prosecute; the guy is a pal of super villain Savile and appeared on his TV show; and last but not least, he panders to the ice-cream man stereotype. Tasty!

Whatever the realities, it seems the Boy Chat thread was quite accurate: people do think ice-cream guys are paedophiles, or might well be. So it is indeed a cliché. At least, it has become so in recent times, as expressed in jokes and comedy sketches if not necessarily in cinema (though I may be wrong, in which case please tell me). There was a 1995 horror film called Ice Cream Man which sounds great fun judging by the IMDB synopsis:

Poor Gregory. After being released from the Wishing Well Sanatorium, all he wants to do is make the children happy. So Gregory reopens the old ice cream factory, and all the unappreciative brats are reprocessed into the flavor of the day.

More Winy Wonka than paedophilia, methinks.

As for novels, there is the very recent The Ice Cream Man by Katri Lipson (the original Finnish title is a wonderfully exotic single word: Jäätelökauppias), which won the 2013 European Union Prize for Literature as a “playful and charming story”. I’m guessing there’s not much paedophilia then.

So what about my claim that paedophilia was more popular than icecream in 2007? What’s that all about?

Books, actually. For the first part of my cliché quest, I thought I’d try the quantification route via references to ice-cream in books. If I could search millions of volumes and see a tight correlation between increasing appearances of the word paedophilia (and pedophilia for American books) and increasing appearances of the word ice-cream, then Heretic TOC could reasonably hypothesise the rise of an ice-cream man cliché as the cause. OK, so a third variable could be the cause of both phenomena, which might require some investigation, but I thought I might be onto something all the same. I probably have junior genius James to thank for this thought. New readers: search recent comments for Bayes (of Bayes’ theorem fame) and consequentialism, which are just two of the knotty notions James is into.

It was a fun exercise, but in terms of useful information I think I came a bit unstuck. So here’s a warning: Never take ideas from a Strange Boy (or Girl or Non-Binary Person) unless you are prepared to be amused 🙂 by your own inadequacy :-(.

And also perhaps by the data. So let’s come to that (or those, for any pedantic grammarians here: Heretic TOC wants to keep everyone happy, even if they are virtuous). So, where was I? Ah, yes, the data.

Google n-grams, that’s the tool. The demonstration graph when you go to the link shows the percentage of books published from 1800-2000 in which particular words occurred, the demo ones being Frankenstein, Albert Einstein and Sherlock Holmes.

What I did was create my own n-gram for paedophilia, pedophilia and icecream. This was a bit limiting because the system does not accept ice-cream with a hyphen although it will take ice – cream when a hyphen or dash is separated from the words by spaces. Weird! But n-grams are also wonderful, as I hope will be agreed.

I have put one of my creations on the blog (see below).

Paedophilia and its American variant derive, as is well known, from Richard von Krafft-Ebing’s first use of the term “paedophilia erotica” in his book Psychopathia Sexualis. The book’s first edition appeared in 1886 but it was not until the 12th and final one in 1903 that his new term is to be found. Richard Fridolin Joseph Freiherr Krafft von Festenberg auf Frohnberg, genannt von Ebing, to give his glorious full appellation, included it in the “Psychopathological Cases” section of Chapter Five, on sexual crimes.

It will be seen that the n-gram dutifully records this first appearance of “paedophilia” in 1903, with the American variant hot on its heels. Both terms remained in medical obscurity, though, until the 1970s, since when the graph has shot upwards for both spellings. Unsurprisingly, pedophilia has raced ahead, reflecting the greater number of American publications in general and medical, legal and scientific ones in particular. Fiction probably lags well behind, thanks to imaginative alternatives such as “monster, “scumbag”, and “lowlife”, as deployed by the likes of popular novelist Andrew Vachss.

Pedophilia, but not paedophilia, leapt ahead of icecream just before 1980.

If you go to this n-gram for the period 2000-2008, the latter date being as recent as the tool goes at the moment, you will see my headline point about paedophilia just above a very steady-looking (with zero “smoothing”) icecream.

What, then, may we conclude about icecream as a literary cliché in connection with paedophilia? Bugger all, perhaps. But if the paedophilic ice-cream man ever became a cliché, wouldn’t we expect to see icecream rising in the graph along with the P words? There are similar n-gram results also for “molester” with “icecream”.

Perhaps this is what has happened: in popular culture the ice-cream man as paedophile is such a strongly entrenched figure that seriously creative people, such as film-script writers and novelists, try to avoid what they fear may be seen as a cliché. As a result, it never actually becomes one.

Anyway, I hope everyone is relaxing and enjoying this little ice-cream break after some rather intensive discussions here. 🙂

 

Icecream n-gram 1800-2000

‘Harmless’ paedos venture out of the shadows

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It’s time for Heretic TOC to turn film critic, as several new films of MAP interest have been brought to my attention recently. Well, I say critic, but it’s more a modest noticeboard function as most of the movies in question have not yet been released, or are not readily available with English sub-titles.

Among the latter is Daniels World (Danieluv svet), winner of the Audience Award at Jihlava International Documentary Film Festival in the Czech Republic. There’s a trailer, but most of us will probably get a much clearer impression from a couple of other sites, including one with distribution details and a synopsis:

Daniel is a young man. Daniel is a student and a writer. Daniel is also a pedophile. He is in love and makes no secret of his sexual orientation; not even in front of the parents of his beloved boy. Daniel has never hurt any child. Neither have Jirka Fx100d, Tomáš Efix, Petr Kasz, MR_Xguard, Host, Simgiran, Silesia, Elrond or others from the community of Czech pedophiles. What is the way of the most intimate of feelings in Daniel’s and his friends’ heart? The film introduces the rises and falls of people living with paedophilia. It portrays Daniel and the community of Czech pedophiles. It narrates a story of a forbidden love and constant struggle to come to terms with oneself and the society.

The marketing information at the above site actually tells us English subtitles are supposed to be available but it doesn’t seem to have happened just yet: the title does not appear alphabetically in the distributor’s English-language catalogue.

Director Veronika Lišková has described the origins of the project and how it was handled. What I found particularly interesting and promising is Daniel’s total openness – a very brave choice for a young man in today’s world, even allowing for differences between Czech culture and that of the Anglophone world. What makes it slightly less difficult for him, or perhaps a lot less, is that he is committed to being what Lišková calls a “harmless paedophile” i.e. he is sexually non-active even though he is in love with a boy.

At least, this is what I picked up from the inevitably garbled (but much better than nothing) Google Translate version of a review that appeared on a Czech site. The shrewd-seeming review of this 75-minute documentary said Daniel’s World is “definitely a very important contribution to the public debate on this topic” albeit with serious limitations, notably as a result of Daniel being portrayed almost entirely in terms of his sexuality.

My chief anxiety, though, and doubtless that of other heretics here, would be somewhat different. The portrayal of paedophiles who present themselves as “harmless” all too easily becomes just propaganda for “virtuous” paedophilia – repressed, neutered, making no demands on society to end the current lunacy. The reviewer tells us, indeed, that Daniel’s doctor makes an appearance, giving his diagnosis on screen. That doesn’t sound good. But his “patient”, who is a literature student, has come out to all and sundry by writing his autobiography as well as appearing in this film. This encouragingly suggests a touch of Paedo Pride rather than the hand-wringing angst of those sad, shipwrecked souls who find themselves washed up on the desolate shores of Virtueland. He doesn’t seem like a beaten man to me, or a reflexive conformist. He is surely no mere CBT fodder. Let’s hope not anyway.

Ice-Cream Hands is a 10-minute short film made in 2002 but elusive to me for a long time. It didn’t come to my attention at all until about 2010. My name had been in the programme notes of the Brazilian University Film Festival, where the film had been screened in 2003. The notes said:

Experimental. Mr. Sprinkles. Single, 35 years. He loves ice cream … as well as little Jude, aged eight. An experimental narrative that relies heavily on the biographical work of Tom O’Carroll, a confessed “lover of children” in the UK.

As may be imagined, I was intrigued to know what this was all about, so I emailed Gavin Youngs, who had been listed as director. He replied, promising to post me a copy of the film, but somehow it never happened. I was prompted to try again this year when something jogged my memory. This time he came good, telling me I could see the film with the password 2002 on Vimeo. Ice-Cream Hands was the first film Youngs made at film school and he claims not to have watched it since. He now runs The Apiary, an independent company that produces films for clients in the creative industries. Commissions have included work for the Royal Australian Ballet and the National Gallery of Victoria.

One can understand that he might be keen to distance himself from such a controversial subject now that he has such prestigious connections in the art establishment of his native country, but he need not be modest about this first work, which was shown in 2004 at St Kilda Film Festival, Australia’s largest and oldest short film event, which is an Academy Award qualifying event; and much later it was featured in the Berlinale Talent Campus section of the 2011 Berlin Film Festival.

At St Kilda’s it was extremely well received. Bill Mousoulis, himself a well regarded Australian film director, wrote:

The absolute highlight of the festival for me was Ice-Cream Hands, a film about paedophilia. And it is an important film in that regard, asking brave questions such as “Is paedophilia per se, without any abuse, a bad thing?”, but it’s mainly a stunning film due to its form, style and sense of aesthetics. It gets far away from the dreaded naturalism that seems to dominate Australian cinema, and goes for an eclectic, excited combination of various stylised elements.

I’d say that’s one hell of a commendation, not least as he says he personally saw 70 of the 150 short films on show. Another reviewer, Rose Capp, also expressed enthusiasm:

Gavin Youngs’ Ice-Cream Hands… interrogates the idea of childhood innocence, tackling the topic of pedophilia in a courageous and original fashion. Minimal dialogue and an intentionally whimsical visual style mixing naive animation with stylised live action offer an appropriately disturbing take on the subject.

I think she’s a bit off target, especially with the near compulsory “disturbing” cliché, except that for me it definitely was disturbing in terms of sheer suspense. It may have been only 10 minutes long but I found it as gut-wrenchingly intense as any Hitchcock thriller.

Not that Ice-Cream Hands really had anything to do with my supposed “biographical work”, which turns out to have been a mistake in the Brazilian programme notes. Instead, the narrative is interspersed with short quotes flashed up briefly from my 1980 book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. Youngs assures me he was granted copyright permission for this by my publisher, Peter Owen Ltd, but no one from the firm ever bothered to tell me about it! I very much agree with the recent (1 November) comment by “Kit” on a Boy Chat thread that these quotes are a bit heavy-handed and overdone (they also wrongly make me look a bit of a VP but I’m not complaining), but otherwise my verdict is a big thumbs up for the film’s cinematic qualities and overall impression. Do let Heretic TOC know what you think.

As for Butterfly Kisses, it is a project I heard about around a year ago on the grapevine, possibly when Blue Shadows Films were undertaking research by contacting MAPs through Boy Chat and Girl Chat. Their website has now put up a brief notice for what I think may be intended as a full-length feature film due to come out next year:

This story is set right now in today’s world that is perhaps more broken, lonely and self destructive than ever. It focuses on the lives of three best friends. The protagonist, JAMIE (17) has realised he is not like the others but that he’s attracted to girls much younger than himself. He doesn’t want to feel this way. He hasn’t done anything wrong. He doesn’t want to do anything wrong but is now facing a life of loneliness and abstinence or exile.

Like Daniel’s World, and indeed Ice-Cream Hands, this description suggests a focus on the familiar “virtuous” angle – it looks like being sympathetic rather than radical. But, hey, a new Lolita would be pushing it a bit in these times. Actually, come to think of it, Lolita the novel was widely held in the literary establishment to be a moralistic work that in effect denounced, rather than celebrated, paedophilia, even though author Vladimir Nabokov was, as we now know, a GL himself.

One interesting aspect of Blue Shadows is the sheer youthfulness of the team, although they do have a token boring-looking old suit among them on the financial side, which gives some reassurance they aren’t just a bunch of kids having fun. While it is true they are only just beginning to grow out of their shorts and into their full-lengths, their budgets for the latter now run to a pretty grown-up £7 million per title.

Then there is Passion Despair, which sounds very exciting – so much so, unfortunately, that I’m not sure it would be wise to download it in the UK, and I have not done so. Jed Jones, presumably the same Jed who now comments here, put up a webpage about it in 2012 which begins thus:

The film that’s banned everywhere! The truth they don’t want you to know: a whole studio of former child web models who say, loud and clear, with the full support of their families, WE ARE NOT VICTIMS.

Now, when Jed says “banned” he probably means the film is unable to be shown for public exhibition in cinemas and elsewhere because a certificate has been refused. That would be the usual interpretation. But as I understand it the film could still be legal, depending on the jurisdiction in question. It seems to have passed muster in Poland as it was premiered publicly there at the Gdansk Dokfilm Festival in 2011. Perhaps Jed will tell us more on this specific matter although I should add that his webpage gives all manner of interesting information about Passion Despair, which need not be repeated here.

I’ll just stick with a few key details. Passion Despair is a documentary by Swiss director Steff Gruber. It features his fellow countryman Daniel Leuenberger (yes, another Daniel and another Daniel’s world: very confusing). This Daniel is a photographer working in Moldova who specialises in photographing girls aged between 9 and 14. Gruber met him there while working on another project.

Now for another documentary I first heard about only yesterday on Sexnet although it came out in 2012. It is from Austria and is called Outing. It has enjoyed a few outings itself, at festivals in Switzerland and Iceland in its first year, and very recently, this September, in Norway at Skeive Filmer: Oslo Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

Whereas Daniel in Daniel’s World manages to be totally open with everyone about his paedophilic feelings, the focus in Outing is on Sven, whose situation is surely much more usual. He has spent his entire adult life with secrets that isolate him psychologically if not socially: there are people in his life, but he cannot share his inner life with them. Sven, we are told, is creative, reflective and was willing to talk honestly. That is why, after approaching a group set up for paedophiles in Germany who were seeking support in living within the law, Sven emerged as the “star” attraction for the filmmakers, who appear to have done a thorough job: they filmed, at intervals, over a four-year period, enabling them to see how Sven’s life developed.

One learns all this from an interview with filmmakers Sebastian Meise and Thomas Reider at the website of the Austrian Film Commission. There is also a trailer on YouTube which, I have to say, goes out of its way to be not only bleak but also boring: it’s as though the makers feel obliged to depress and alienate their audience in order to show they are serious.

I doubt that this pair took the same dreary approach with a (sort of) incest-based drama they had done earlier, though, called Still Life (Stilleben). The synopsis on IMDB has this:

A father pays prostitutes to play the role of his own daughter. The shocking revelation concerning his long-secret obsession tears up the family’s delicate fabric. The son blames himself, and he resolves to find out whether his father ever acted on his fantasies, while his sister wants to sort out her memories on her own. Despite her uncertainties, their mother’s reaction leaves no question as to what she thinks. The father ultimately has to find a way of coping with his shame and feelings of guilt.

Still Life may or may not be straightforwardly a “sexploitation” movie but the final title on Heretic TOC’s list for today is a drama we will probably find neither boring nor exploitative though it may be controversial. This is Force Majeure, and the great joy is that unlike all the obscure stuff above, most of us should soon be able to see this in the cinemas or buy it for home viewing.

Perhaps that is because it is about manhood, not paedophilia, although the gender issues engaged should be of interest to more than one sort of heretic here. I heard about Force Majeure in the New York Review of Books last month.

It’s all about the emotional and moral fallout from an incident on a Swedish family’s holiday in a French ski resort. When an avalanche threatens to engulf their hotel, the father panics and runs for it, leaving his family to their fate. Nobody in the end dies, but how can the family live with dad after that? Isn’t the senior male supposed to be the brave protector, after all? Or is that out of date in these gender bending times?

There is no way this can fail to be a compelling theme, although I do somewhat suspect it is all part of a feminist plot (though the director is a man) to undermine not just macho culture but masculinity itself, and all trace of why men need to take pride in what their manhood can contribute to a family other than sperm. I am reminded of the wonderful book The Myth of Male Power by Warren Farrell, which challenged the belief that patriarchal societies make rules to benefit men at the expense of women. He argued that men are in reality the expendable sex, often called upon to sacrifice themselves for women and children in a whole range of ways, from defending home and hearth in warfare to being last into the lifeboats when the ship is going down.

And speaking of ships going down, I am reminded of a salty saga of yesteryear that presented a masculinity-affirming take on dereliction of duty and its aftermath. Joseph Conrad’s novel Lord Jim is more than a century old now. It is the story of a mariner who spends a lifetime dogged by guilt over abandoning an endangered ship and its passengers. His years of atonement see his courage permanently on trial and not again found wanting. His story is not, in the end, an exposure of “manliness” as fraudulent, but a stirring affirmation of manhood and its responsibilities.

Anyway, I hope there is something here that will be of interest. This selection is just a ragbag of heretical, or heresy-relevant, films that have come my way. I don’t even bother to follow the mainstream film reviews these days so it is possible I may have missed a lot of important stuff. If so, do let me know, or better still submit a review of one or more films that could be used as a guest blog for Heretic TOC.

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