OSCARS 2014: “Facing Fear”

Last Updated: January 20, 2015By Tags: ,

“The words and what I saw, were far more painful throughout my life than the boots and the blades”  Matthew Boger

It’s never too late to change who you are—however difficult that may be. Such is the rallying cry of Jason Cohen’s short “Facing Fear” (this documentary has been nominated in the “Best Documentary Short” category at this year’s Academy Awards). Tim Zaal savagely attacked, along with fourteen other punk rock Neo-Nazis, Matthew Boger, a boy recently thrown out of his house for being gay. Twenty-five years later, Matthew Boger, now manager at the Museum of tolerance, finds himself face to face with a reformed Tim Zaal.

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How do you deal with shame and guilt? How do you live and surpass the trauma of having been victim of violence for being who you are? More importantly, how do you forgive the one whose caused you a lifetime of fear and hurt? How do you prepare yourself mentally to accept the forgiveness of the person you’ve wronged?

“Facing Fear” takes the point of view of these two now-grown men, and how their introspection has enabled them to come to terms with their pasts. Crosscutting between close-up shots of both men, Cohen places the emphasis on his subjects’ facial expressions, revealing their pain and shame as the terrible event is told through two distinct perspectives: attacker and victim.

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“Facing Fear” is a chilling and heartbreaking film, whose depiction of the yearning for acceptance and the thirst for power and a sense of belonging renders Tim Zaal and Matthew Boger inspiring men, whose story should be told, and re-told, for generations to come. The documentary’s hopeful ethos and beautifully simple cinematography strengthen its sincerity and straightforward message. Intolerance, bullying and violence remain crucial issues, but we all have the power within ourselves to recognize our wrongs, to let go of the anger and resentment against those who have done us wrong, and use our experiences to educate those who look up to us.

Alix Becq is a new contributor to Screen Comment.

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