Jan-Willem Breure’s documentary Are All Men Pedophiles? asks that very question and then sets out to find its answer. Via discussion on pedophilia, examples through world history and religion, and even the current state of the fashion industry and media coverage, the film sets out a concrete definition of pedophilia in both clinical and general senses, as well as educates on the varying degrees of sexual attraction to various age groups, and where they stand in relation to the law and in other societies. The result is a better understanding of the specific definition of pedophilia, ephebophilia and the like, but flimsy justifications and arguments based on those definitions to try to answer, or not answer, the titular question.
First, the good: the film is extremely well-made, the interviews polished and the edit properly paced. As far as the surface elements of the documentary, the outer shell looks good and is put together about as well as you can. It’s in the soul of the film, and the arguments, that the film starts to look less than satisfactory.
Mainly, the film is based on cut-and-paste arguments; the type of “well, technically…” conversation that you’d see utilized in a court case to sneak someone out a legal loophole. The techniques, logic and justifications in Are All Men Pedophiles? could just as easily be used in a documentary called Are All Men Murderers? You’ve got your question-mark controversial title, semantics arguments (“define ‘murder'”), historical context and evolutionary pretext, government, society or religious involvement and you can even interview someone in jail convicted of murder, or reconstruct an “exclusive” interview or two with people who have contemplated murder. That doesn’t make the conversation or investigation compelling, it just means, given enough time and semantics, you could almost justify anything. Almost.
Which makes you wonder why this film exists? Its argument is that a society needs to know the real definition of what is and isn’t a pedophile, but is that really true, if the clinical and legal definitions are spelled out? It seems to me that the people who would rule on jail time or the like do know the definition. So the film is trying to educate the general public, but why?
In execution, and using the same semantics argument, the film seems to point out that clinical pedophilia (sexual attraction to prepubescent children) is wrong (and rightfully illegal), but ephebophilia (which is a sexual attraction to mid-to-late adolescents, generally ages 15 to 19) is evolutionary and bolstered by societies over the years, and even today via the way fashion and media portray young adults as sex symbols. In other words, it’s like someone found themselves attracted to a teenager, someone else called them a “pedophile” for that attraction and then the accused set out a lengthy argument about why they’re “technically” not a pedophile and why their attraction is not only to be blamed on society and media, but that the attraction is also evolutionary. It’s like this movie exists to make that person feel better about themselves. Which is fine, but that doesn’t mean it makes for all that interesting a documentary.
You could argue that Are All Men Pedophiles? is a product of our times, and specifically the state of internet journalism as a baseline for making a documentary; everything about the film smacks of internet marketing and traffic-baiting tactics, from the controversial-to-inflammatory title (that ends in a question mark, so it’s just a question, man, calm down) to the roundabout logic to the usage of “Exclusive” reconstructed interviews to the semantics arguments that are sure to keep anyone annoyed with how the film doesn’t really even answer its own question (though, if you stick around post-credits, the filmmaker does give his answer; I’ll give you a hint, it’s as satisfying and committed as the rest of the film, in case you didn’t guess). And like those articles, you might be drawn in by the title, and you might learn something you didn’t already know, but you’ll forget about them just as quickly.
The film’s website has a quote stating that the film is “The Most Controversial Film Ever Made.” I don’t know about that, especially considering documentaries about pedophilia involve the infamous Chickenhawk; this isn’t even just saying “Documentary” but “Film,” meaning all manner of other titles are in the running for the designation. As it is, I think the documentary is a single-minded but frustratingly muddled exercise in justification, evasion and semantics.
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