ZU SEHEN AM
Di, 25.11. - 20.00 Uhr im Savoy
Robert ist gerade erst 7 Jahre alt und doch scheint
sein Leben fast schon vorbei. Seine Großmutter
möchte ihn wegen seiner Verhaltensprobleme dauerhaft
mit Medikamenten voll pumpen und seine Mutter, eine
ehemalige (nun aber zahnlose) Schönheitskönigin,
ist auch nicht gerade eine Hilfe. Erst langsam stellt
sich heraus, warum Robert in der Schule ein netter und
umgänglicher Schüler ist und daheim mit der
Pistole auf seine Großmutter los geht. Über
2 Jahre beobachtet Regisseurin Rory Kennedy Robert und
seine Familie und zeichnet das erschütternde Bild
vom Zerfall des „amerikanischen Traumes“
und dem Missbrauch eines Kindes.
Meet Robert Oliver. He is 7 years old and has various
personality and behavioural problems. He uses Ritalin
and other drugs to control his illnesses. The only problem
is that Robert may not actually be ill at all.
A Boy’s Life is a powerful study into matriarchal
power, pain and loss. The documentary took two years
to film and follows Robert, his family, his teachers
and his therapist as they go through life in the tiny
town of Eupora in Mississippi. Robert and his younger
brother are cared for by their grandmother Anna Threadgill.
Robert’s mother, Robanna Fason had Robert aged
16 after being raped. Robanna now lives alone in a trailer
with a horde of dogs for company. Having once had high
hopes of being a beauty queen she is grossly overweight,
has no front teeth and suffers from pneumonia and depression.
Initially we see Robert as a problem child. His apparent
hyperactivity seems impossible to cope with and Anna
seems to have an arduous task - she eerily relates how
Robert has tried to commit suicide and has killed scores
of cats and dogs.
As the story evolves it is clear Robert is not the only
one in the family with problems. At school he behaves
as normally as any other child and displays a keen intelligence.
Yet Anna insists that he transforms when he leaves school.
Robert displays no signs of physical abuse so Social
Services are unable to act - mental abuse is extremely
difficult to pin down. Robanna also displays the mental
scars of her mother’s influence. She has extremely
poor self-esteem and is unable and unwilling to reclaim
Anna is hospitalised with severe bruising to her legs.
She claims Robert kicked her black and blue in a fit
of rage. In a session with his therapist, Dr. Virginia
Fee, Robert has no recollection of doing anything. Anna
says it is because the drugs have blanked his memory.
As Anna is hospitalised Robert and Benji move in to
Robanna’s trailer in one final attempt to shake
off Anna’s influence.
Rory Kennedy’s fascinating film is compelling
stuff. She strays away from embellishing anything and
lets the words and images tell the story. It’s
a wise move as this story is as touching and sad as
anything Hollywood has produced recently. Kennedy has
commented: “While the film strayed quite a bit
from my initial vision, I think it is richer for it.
With verité documentaries, you always want to
feel you are a fly on the wall, not having much actions
on the influences you film. But I don’t think
it’s ever fully the case. I think we did have
an impact on the situation.”
While Kennedy’s impact falls on the affirming
side, she also provides much for modern America to consider.
The poverty and naivety shown here is shocking. Insects
routinely crawl around Anna’s house. Mouldy bread
is left next to a half full ashtray. No-one seems to
have a job. One scene where Anna tries to heal Robanna’s
ills through the power of Christ is very disturbing.
This is American life shown in microcosm and it’s
more alarming than any reality TV programme trends you
can dream of.