It’s the documentary that Hollywood doesn’t want you to see, but it’s going to be shown rather bravely at the North Hollywood Laemmle for one night only this coming Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m. It’s an “Open Secret.”
The documentary will shake you to the core, because it pulls the lid off of the ugly secret of youths coming to Hollywood to make it big only to become victims of sexual predators. The stories seem to be fodder for the legendary Hollywood casting couch, but what’s truly frightening is that it’s all too real, and it’s all too well accepted by the Hollywood system.
Directed by Oscar-nominated Amy Berg, who is known for “West of Memphis” and “Deliver Us from Evil,” the story focuses on five children who were betrayed and abandoned by a system that essentially funnels them toward sexual predators. The actions of these well-known elite have no oversight or regard for safety.
Berg delves into the young people’s lives, and how the youths have emerged stronger as they speak out about it. The film’s message is: Be courageous, report it, life gets better.
The boys in the documentary are now young men who followed the storied dream of becoming stars but got caught up in a dark world of false promises and sexual abuse. Their lives are shown to have changed forever, and despite their heartfelt confessions and their outspoken stories, they have seen little justice for what happened to them.
The documentary spells our very clearly that the entertainment industry seems rather complicit toward the abuse of minors. Some of them see it as a rite of passage into the prestigious club of celebrity.
Critics have loved it. It has a 93 percent positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes. It has opened in Seattle, Denver, New York and Los Angeles and will head to other cities in the country as well as the United Kingdom and Stockholm this year.
Evan Henzi, who is one of the youths who tells his story, is in the film and sings the movie’s theme song “Call to Arms” which was written by Gary Lightbody and Johnny McDaid from Snow Patrol.
The film’s subjects and advocates also include child actors Todd Bridges and Corey Feldman as well as BiParentz founders Anne Henry and Paula Dorn. Producers Gabe Hoffman and Matthew Valentines are expected to attend the screening along with interview subject and journalist Dawn Chmielewski.
The filmmakers feel that this movie should be seen by youths of all ages and fought to keep it a PG-13 rating despite its mature subject matter. Finally, the Motion Picture ratings system gave it the rating for a wider audience. MPAA chair Christopher Dodd changed the rating after the producers resubmitted the production and cleaned up some of the language to make it more suitable for a teen audience.
Producer Gabe Hoffman said, “We were pleased that we only had to make very minor changes to the film to obtain the PG-13 rating. As producer, it was my intent all along to have this film viewed by as many people as possible and when we realized the R-rating would limit our audience, we took action.”
Hoffman added, “The abuse of our children must stop and we wanted to make sure that families would be able to watch our film together and have a discussion afterward. Our film happens to be set in Hollywood, but this abuse is going on in our communities nationwide and its my hope that moms and dads and kids who watch this film will be armed and ready to spot and take on the abusers in their communities.”
The producers also signed a deal with Gathr for a nationwide crowd-driven screening.
“Partnering with Gathr gives our national audience an opportunity to bring our film to their communities,” said producer Matthew Valentinas. “Every day brings more revelations of sexual abuse by our respected entertainers, leaders and others in positions of power. It’s our hope the exposure for the film will not only tell our subjects’ stories in a compelling and enlightening way, but will increase vigilance among parents, caregivers and potential victims to identify and combat dangerous, abusive behavior.”
Writing credits include Berg, Lorien Haynes and Billy McMillin. The interview subjects include Henzi, Michael Egan III, Mark Ryan, Joey Coleman and Nick Stojanovich.
The Laemmle Noho 7 is at 5240 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood.