Monday, October 29, 2007


Adi Sideman | 1994 | 55 min | US

An hour of gay pedophiles rationalizing and intellectualizing "man-boy love." This documentary is as relentlessly disturbing as it is fascinating. It interviews a number of men who are remarkably candid about their desires, without a trace of guilt. One in particular is unabashed about having honed his seduction to an art. When you see him on camera speaking with a young boy it is discomforting, to say the least, and when he recounts his "connection" with the boy later on he sounds psychotic.

Many of of the men presented in the documentary are involved with NAMBLA, the North American Man-Boy Love Association. They prefer to use terms like "child-lover" rather than, say, "molester" and point to their "struggle" and the historic precedent for adults taking child sexual partners. I don't buy their stance, personally, but the documentary avoids directing the audience to moral conclusions too overtly. It contains very little narration or titling, but the interviewees manage to dig their own graves just fine.

Visually, Chickenhawk leaves a lot to be desired. It is shot on what appears to be consumer video, and poorly at that. White balance, people. A little more attention could have been paid to the boom mic placement, too. The rare glimpse into this bizarre world is worth ignoring the stylistic shortcomings, though.

I would have liked to have seen it expanded into a feature with more information about the genesis and opposition to NAMBLA. The information would have opened it up to a wider audience, but I imagine the information and interviews the filmmaker did manage to get were difficult enough. Still, a little more time spent on the history of the organization and its public face would have made the documentary considerably fuller.

This is obviously not choice viewing for everyone. If you are interested in fringe documentary and subculture, this will suit the bill, but I would avoid making a blanket recommendation of Chickenhawk. You need a strong stomach.

Chickenhawk did have some good news, though: everyone featured in the film basically looks like just what you would expect a pedophile to look like. Tell your kids not to talk to strangers, please.

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