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  • Jennifer Green

Review: "Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America"

This investigative documentary details more than a century of alleged and documented mismanagement and sexual abuse that affected tens of thousands of boys and men.


Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America is broken into segments that detail abuse, investigate the organization's response, consider the inadequacy of the ongoing legal handling of the situation, and allow survivors to talk about the long-lasting impact of childhood abuse on their lives.


One of the main talking heads is Michael Johnson, former director of youth protection for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) and a key whistleblower about the organization's mishandling of rampant abuse. Director Knappenberger was smart to put Johnson, a stellar spokesperson who is both likable and believable, at the heart of his film.

Many of the interviewees, all men except one, break into tears while talking to Knappenberger. Victims suggest that finally revealing what happened to them (and feeling not alone in it) is cathartic.


The film smartly ends on that note, but the hour and a half before this is very tough, with graphic descriptions of physical abuse and emotional trauma, shocking cover-ups, and troubling connections to other public scandals.


You hear the director's voice regularly, so he might have introduced himself and his motivation for undertaking this particular topic. One other minor critique -- the film often cuts to other images during interviews, including meaningful pictures of sources from the past, clipped news articles, and nighttime campsite footage that sets an eerie tone. But there are also frequent cuts to BSA buildings that start to feel repetitive.


The many first-hand sources who stepped up to share their perspectives here were enough on their own, and the film deftly manages not to feel cloying or sensationalist. Considering the more than 82,000 alleged victims reported, theirs are only a small part of this story.

 

Read the full review at Common Sense Media.

Images courtesy of Netflix.

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