There’s no way to sugarcoat child abuse. It’s simply one of the most disgusting things humanity has ever conceived and something that far too many people have to live with every day. How do we end it? Who knows, but one way to curtail it is to confront it head-on, reveal the abusers and go along your daily life while the pedophile rots in a cell. Intent on rising up against the men who abused him and his younger sister Bekah, young director Sasha Joseph Neulinger reveals his traumatic childhood and subsequent triumph in his personal documentary Rewind.
Sasha and Bekah were born to two loving parents who only wanted the best for their children. In their youngest years, they were happy, chubby kids, but then something changed. Sasha became angry, violent and suicidal. He lashed out at everyone, including Bekah, in his inability to articulate what was happening to him behind closed doors. Desperate for answers, his parents took him to a psychiatrist who finally got the boy to open up through drawing pictures. By talking about what happened to him, Sasha revealed a deeply rooted family secret that extended far beyond his own experience, which ultimately tore his family apart.
“…we actually watch it unfold the way his parents did thanks to the library of home movies…”
While the subject matter is unpleasant enough on its own, we actually watch it unfold the way his parents did thanks to the library of home movies Sasha’s father, Henry, kept over the years. It gives a new depth to the narrative in that, instead of just hearing people talking about it, we can actually see the toll the abuse took on the young boy. His suicidal depression becomes something tangible that we witness, and we can’t help but sit aghast as this innocent little kid talks about his strong desire to kill himself.
Of course, the narrative would not be this solid if not for its director, and Sasha deserves credit not only for making a riveting documentary but also for getting so darkly personal. He’s obviously a natural as a director in his ability to make his subjects comfortable enough to reveal the worst parts of their lives. Sure, this is his family, but even parents and siblings draw the line on what they will say on camera. Still, they become vulnerable and give valuable insight into what Neulinger’s psychiatrist, Dr. Herbert Lustig, describes as “the vile give that keeps on giving.”
As awful as it all was, Sasha has also been able to turn it around and reclaim control of his life from his abusers. His first step was saying who they were, first to his doctor, then his parents, then to law enforcement, then to court and now here. It’s a level of bravery that few of us can muster, but an inspiration to anyone who has ever faced the same challenges. Talk about a superhero.
Rewind (2019) Directed by Sasha Joseph Neulinger. Starring Sasha Joseph Neulinger, Jacqui Neulinger, Henry Nevison, Bekah Neulinger, Dr. Herbert Lustig, George Ohrin and Risa Vetri Ferman. Rewind screened at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival.
9 out of 10 stars