Watched a few documentaries last week, each of which I liked for different reasons. (The placement of each in a category is somewhat random, as any of them could have been switched.)
Playground, directed by Libby Spears, was a powerful film about sex trafficking in the United States. It was a mix of haunting personal stories and staggering statistics and thoughts from professionals within the system, all punctuated with beautiful, incongruous artwork by Yoshitoro Nara. It was painful to learn just how little our laws, our whole broken system in fact, do to protect these children. The hypocrisy of this nation who claims to care so much about its children, and yet literally throws them away by the thousands, is mind-boggling. This is a film that every adult in the United States should be compelled to watch.
The focus of the film, Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer, isn’t on the murders Aileen Wuornos was convicted of. Filmmaker Nick Broomfield instead explores the people around Wuornos. And the story that emerges was profoundly sad. From nearly the moment that Wuornos was first suspected of committing these murders, there were people looking to make a buck off of her, looking to exploit her for their own selfish reasons, from the police to her lawyer to the woman who adopted Wuornos after her arrest. Broomfield does not try to excuse the behavior of Wuornos, to prove or disprove her guilt. He shares a completely different angle to the story.
In some aspects, The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne, felt like the lightest of these three films. But that ignores the circumstances of her life that led Doris Payne down the road she blazed. I found it impossible to resist the charm, the spunk, the fierce independence, the sheer audacity of this woman, now in her mid-80s. This isn’t to say that I approve of all her actions, but more to say that all of us are enormously complex people. And it’s good to be reminded often that everyone is more than just a label, be that label “jewel thief” or “mother” or “addict” or anything else under the sun.