When “An Open Secret” premiered at DOC NYC, audiences and critics worried that no distributor would touch it. But the film has finally been picked up, by Rocky Mountain Pictures, for a 20-city US theatrical release beginning June 5. The film will also play exclusively at the Cannes Market in an invite-only screening on May 19.
The documentary, however, is not exactly in the wheelhouse of Rocky Mountain Pictures, which has so far specialized mainly in fundamentalist Christian and right-wing political films, from “Atlas Shrugged: Part One” (2011) to its highest grosser “2016: Obama’s America” (2012), for the middle American demo. How will the Utah-based distributor channel the film’s message to the right audience? This pickup suggests that “An Open Secret,” shut out of most high-profile festival play, didn’t elicit interest from the level of distributors who’ve handled Berg’s past films (including Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Classics). It will be interesting to see how the film gets marketed.
Championed by veteran documentary programmer Thom Powers, the doc points at several industry figures involved in the sexual exploitation of male would-be child stars, including Marc Collins-Rector, founder of the youth-aimed web channel Digital Entertainment Network (DEN), and child-actor manager Martin Weiss. But “An Open Secret” doesn’t blatantly wag its finger at the ever-unraveling saga of Bryan Singer, whose rumored-to-be-hedonistic parties are an example of such settings of teenage sex abuse.
Oscar-nominated for her Catholic sex abuse doc “Deliver Us From Evil” (2006) and acclaimed for “West of Memphis” (2012), her deep-dive into Arkansas’ imprisonment of the teenage West Memphis Three, Berg met applause both muted and rapturous at DOC NYC. Here’s what critics had to say.
Variety: “‘An Open Secret,’ Amy Berg’s nonsensationalist expose of the sexual abuse of young male actors by those with the power to make or break them, recasts an old Hollywood story, substituting boys for starlets and hot tubs for casting couches. Though clearly championing the cause of the ex-child thesps who candidly recount their ordeals, Berg’s crusade advances on eggshells, dodging the potential lawsuits looming at every name named. This caution somewhat fudges the film’s throughline, but if Berg can find a distrib willing to brave the forces that have silenced this open secret for decades, the documentary should find avid auds worldwide.”
The Hollywood Reporter: “‘Secret’ is wary of vague accusations and hearsay; it also, despite multiple references to Bryan Singer in its accounts of hedonistic parties, steers clear of airing the accusations that one of its interviewees made in a lawsuit filed earlier this year, then withdrawn after the accuser’s prior inconsistent statements emerged. This praiseworthy caution will likely keep the doc from attracting as much attention as many seem to expect (despite a surprise or two involving non-celebrities late in the film); it will play best on cable, where with any luck it will encourage other victims to speak up, and enlighten the parents of showbiz aspirants about the industry’s dangers.”
Indiewire: “More than highlighting victimhood, Berg’s film gives her subjects a platform without exploiting them. As the film makes painfully clear, it’s unfathomably difficult to come forward in this kind of situation, and despite copious accusations and a considerable number of young boys who have no reason to lie about such atrocities, they’ve been frequently silenced or ignored by the media.”
A Disarming Films production, “An Open Secret” is produced by Amy Berg and Katelyn Howes. Executive producers are Gabe Hoffman and Matthew Valentinas; Co-producers, Peter Clune and Alex Riguero. The film is written by Amy Berg and Billy McMillin and Lorien Haynes.