Cannes Film Festival: An Open Secret

Directed by Amy Berg

by Joanna Orland

Labeling An Open Secret as “the movie Hollywood doesn’t want you to see” is more than sensationalism, it is truth.  Having been rejected by various film festivals and struggling towards its imminent 20-cities release, the documentary by Oscar-nominated director Amy Berg is treading a fine line by taking on Hollywood with some large accusations and implications.

“What you see in the film is literally just the tip of the iceberg,” says executive producer Gabe Hoffman at an out-of-festival screening and Q&A in Cannes.  “For every victim that’s in the film, there are another five or ten with fact-checked, legitimate accounts, who didn’t want to be identified.”

An Open Secret openly discusses the problem of child sex abuse in Hollywood, from the director who took on a similar story of paedophilia within the Catholic church in Deliver Us From Evil.  Finding victims willing to come forward for this film could not have been easy, but those who were willing to take part have done so for the greater good.  Evan Henzi, now 21, is one of these victims featured in the film.  His story is compelling and his bravery inspiring.  For Evan, he was let down by the legal system, but feels the need to tell of what happened to him in order to encourage others to come forward, and also to help himself let go of these demons.  “I’m starting to understand exactly what happened to me, because if I keep it in my head, I’m so confused all the time. I blamed myself and felt guilty,” explains Evan.

The film’s purpose is not only to raise awareness of the issue, but to provoke industry change.  As it stands, registered sex offenders are still allowed to work in Hollywood.  For example, the film tells the story of Brian Peck, who previously worked for Nickolodeon.  Peck was convicted of lewd acts with a child, yet he his now working in Hollywood once again.  An actual convicted pedophile, out of prison and able to work with children.

Peck’s friendship with famed director Bryan Singer is also discussed in the film.  While no accusations are directly made against the director, implications suggest that Singer, along with David Geffen, have suspicious ties to certain people known for illicit behaviour.  Again, these are not accusations, but allusions to the effect that this is a wider Hollywood problem and not just a few confined incidents.

This documentary while exploring the perpetrators, also focuses strongly on the victims.  Evan H.’s account of the abuse by his manager Marty Weiss, also known for managing and abusing Corey Haim, is shocking to bear witness to, especially with the inarguable evidence Evan provides. Weiss groomed not only Evan and his young clients, but also their families, gaining parents’ trust and situating himself closely by everyone’s sides.

Weiss’s victims are only one element of An Open Secret.  The documentary also explores Marc Collins-Rector who is accused of a more organized and violent form of pedophilia, together with his business partners Chad Shackley and Brock Pierce of the entertainment network DEN.  These men would approach resistant boys with the threat of never working in Hollywood again if they didn’t sexually comply, and when that didn’t work, they would sometimes resort to violent threats, drugs and rape.

Berg also focuses her exposé on those who should be protecting Hollywood’s youth, including an interview with Michael Harrah, head of the Screen Actors Guild Young Performers Committee.  Initially presented as a spokesperson for Hollywood and the victims, it gradually becomes clear that even Harrah may not be what he seems and that this problem is even further widespread than imagined.

Shocking revelations make this documentary powerful, but it is also the abusers’ lack of liability that hits hard.  These men are not just in denial of their wrong-doing, but even once found guilty in the eyes of the law, they are able to continue as if no harm has been done.  The longterm effects of their actions are plainly visible through the interviews with their victims.

An Open Secret is an important exposé on Hollywood, with all profits being donated to help enforce stricter employment rules.  Whether Hollywood likes it or not, its victims’ voices will finally be heard.


Our interview with producer Matt Valentinas.

Leave a Reply