johnlink ranks CROPSEY (2009)

Winner of Best Documentary at the 2009 Tribeca Film Festival, CROPSEY comes from a couple of filmmakers who dig into the truth behind an urban legend they grew up hearing in Staten Island.


I watched CROPSEY (2009) on 10.30.13. It was my first viewing of the film.

This can be hard to watch. It’s not violent or gory or anything of that sort. It gets closest to this sort of shock value by playing a Geraldo Rivera report (go figure) showing the actual conditions of a mental institution in the early 1970s. Instead of gimmicks, the power is in the truth. In Staten Island, over a period of years in the 1970s and 1980s, many many kids disappeared. Young kids as young as 7, often kids with mental disabilities. Very few bodies were recovered.

One child that was found, Jennifer Schweiger, led to the arrest of the mentally ill Andre Rand. He ultimately was convicted of kidnapping, but not murder. There was very little real evidence, but Rand was mentally ill and camped a couple hundred yards from where Jennifer was found.

This documentary, then, catches us up to a time when Rand is on trial for another disappearance just as he is within a couple of years of being eligible for release from the kidnapping charges. Suddenly, after much fruitless effort, Rand begins exchanging letters with the filmmakers. They push for an interview, which he denies siting potential threats to his life in prison.

While the documentary methodically lays the story out by interviewing police and getting witnesses to retrace the steps, we are also waiting for the filmmakers to finally get that interview with Rand. They inch closer and closer to his agreement. A late attempt turns out to be a failure.

This is filmed in a nice way, though a scene in the dark is too dark to see anything. I imagine they sell the film a little bit on the “I heard something” and “Oh my God, what is that.” comments, but they amount to nothings. But this documentary is not about that sort of scare. Truly, this is a story about how a community reacts when they are facing a fearful state. It is a documentary which tries to play the middle. It presents facts about a case. Sometimes Rand looks amazingly guilty. Sometimes the police look like they jumped to conclusions. Sometimes the residents seem as though they just wanted a face to blame. What is the truth, and how can it be found satisfactorily for those without a personal stake in it one way or the other?

The film holds out a shocking reveal for the last ten minutes. It is a little manipulative in the fact that it may have change our view from the beginning. Another late moment definitely tries to manipulate us to think a woman fighting for answers is no different than the attention seeking Rand. On the other hand, the film is more about the exploration than the answer. This is a solid film, even if it doesn’t even get all the answer it wants to itself. Anyone from Staten Island, or living in Staten Island now, would certainly be interested to see a piece of its local history.


Effect replaces Acting for Documentaries, and it measures the film’s ability to make its point.




~ by johnlink00 on October 31, 2013.

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