A review of Amy Berg’s documentary, “An Open Secret,” which looks at several specific cases of child sexual abuse in Hollywood involving young boys. Rating: 3 stars out of 4.
Amy Berg’s chilling new documentary “An Open Secret” begins with the on-screen words “The movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see.” No doubt; it’s an exploration of sexual abuse of children in the entertainment industry, focusing on about a half-dozen specific cases involving young teen or preteen boys. “It’s the tip of the iceberg,” says Anne Henry, a mother who co-founded an organization to support families in the industry. The combination of vulnerable children and parents dazzled by stardom, the film tells us, creates a climate for abuse — often committed, in these stories, by managers and publicists, trusted to safeguard the children in their charge.
Berg, who explored similar territory in her Oscar-nominated film about sex abuse in the Catholic Church (“Deliver Us From Evil”), points out known abusers still working in the industry: actor/former Nickelodeon dialogue coach Brian Peck, a convicted sex offender; agent Martin Weiss, who spent just months in jail after pleading no contest to two counts of committing lewd acts on a child under 14. (That child, now grown and identified only as Evan H., speaks in the film; he bravely tape-recorded Weiss discussing the acts.)
Some familiar faces and voices appear: Todd Bridges, once Willis on “Diff’rent Strokes,” talks of being abused by his publicist at age 11, and how it affected the rest of his life (he turned to drugs and alcohol, because he “didn’t want to feel any more”); and former child actor Corey Feldman is seen, in archival footage, talking about what he describes as the biggest problem in Hollywood — pedophilia. But Berg’s most shocking moment comes late in the film, when a veteran child-talent agent is himself accused of abuse on camera, and doesn’t deny it. “This is not a terrible thing,” he says, “unless you think it is.” All proceeds of the film go to the Courage to Act Foundation, to help victims of sexual abuse; that sentence alone reminds us that such foundations — and this film — are desperately needed.
Movie Review ★★★
‘An Open Secret,’ a documentary directed by Amy Berg. 97 minutes. Rated R for some descriptions of sexual abuse. Several theaters.