Children Accuse

Short about alcohol abuse. Part of the “black series” (1955-9) of films about serious subjects. Original title: Dzieci oskarżają.

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Terse, primitive, well-assembled “documentary” (if by documentary you mean actors acting out real or unreal events) dealing with the effects of adult alcoholism on children. It begins: a little girl, her mother, a scream, the mother run-down dead by a drunk driver, a close-up of the little girl crying—and flash the title! Then again, Jerzy Hoffman has never been subtle. So we proceed to see parents giving their 7-year old kids their first sips of vodka, teenagers getting smashed on someone’s birthday (and I mean smashed; the kind of smashed you only see in movies), a father forgetting to pick up his son from school and spending the day, evening, and night drinking instead. Eventually, a boy—sporting a big welt over one eye—talks about how his parents drink and beat him. In the next scene, the drunk father gives the kid some money and sends him off to the store, where the hungry lad eyes the mounds of breads, meats, and sweets (shocking: they must have been assembled just for the film, and quickly redistributed afterwards!) before buying the inevitable hootch for papa. He should have bought the hamfist, instead. At the end, there are authentic shots of children with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome—no less manipulative than what comes before, but harder to be cynical about and more documental—as well as a bit of blunt but effective montage: a booze bottle swings in and out of focus; the leering, laughing faces of grotesque drunks.

Children accuse, the judge reluctantly accepts the case, but not before having a little drink first.

Jerzy Hoffman, 1956

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