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132 of 134 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The tragic life art imitated, May 3, 2000
This review is from: The Brandon Teena Story [VHS] (VHS Tape)
I decided to see this video before seeing "Boys Don't Cry", the movie based on the same story. I have concluded that seeing both films is essential for anyone not directly involved in the actual situation to understand what went on. "Boys Don't Cry" took some liberties with the facts involved in the true story, as most artistic works must ultimately do. "The Brandon Tenna Story" focused on the facts leading up to the hate-crime rape and murder--showing John Lotter and Tom Nissen as amoral sociopaths who, even two years after their crimes, see themselves as homegrown heros who saved a friend through sexual assault and who each proclaims his innocence of the subsequent triple (not double) murder that followed. (This video tells of the third victim of the murder--a physically disabled African American man who just happened to be at the murder scene at the time.) Also in this film (and missing from "BDC") are interviews with the mother of Brandon Teena and the parents of the friend who offered him shelter and tried to offer him a refuge from Lotter and Nissen, only to die for her efforts an leave a 9-month-old son an orphan. The actual filmed interviews with the deputy sheriff who let Lotter and Nissen go, even after they as good as confessed their involvement in the rape to him, is perhaps the most puzzling character of all in this video. The excerpts from his interrogations of Brandon after the rape, and subsequently of Nissen and Lotter, indicate that he was far more aggressive and harsh in his questioning of the victim. There is evidence that both Nissen and Lotter were already well-known as violent trouble-makers in the county's law enforcement officers, this deputy included. In his brief appearances in the film, the sheriff of the county where Brandon dies gives a distinct impression of a town in severe financial depression where violence of all sorts is an everyday affair that everyone learns to live with, if they want to live at all. Somehow, a careful analysis of all that information, and a bit more fact gathering, might ultimately explain why, even after the murders, the deputy seems to regard himself as a law enforcement professional who did his job as best he could. At the end of this video, however, he seems to be nearly as culpable in the crimes as Nissen and Lotter themselves. I don't apologize for that impression, since evidently the Nebraska courts are still dealing with that very issue in a lawsuit filed by Brandon's mother.
This video does not portray Brandon in his best light (I definitely refer anyone to "BDC" for that), because it seems to focus more on the basic facts of his too-short life more than on the pain and confusion that must have been his--trying to live as a man when he had been given a body that appeared to be mostly female, and in a part of the world where the people surrounding him were too busy screwing up their own lives to understand his unique set of problems. So Brandon's survival skills came to include lying and occasionally writing bad checks. But even the most hardcore pragmatist would have to say at the end of the film that Brandon's "victims" would recover in short order and get on with their lives. That's a great deal more than can be said for the victims of Nissen and Lotter, who in this documentary seem to be singing, "We're just some good ol' boys, never meaning' no harm" to the world."
Perhaps the most chilling part of viewing this excellent documentary is that knowledge that this savagery took place only seven years ago in America, helped along by people who at least still give lip service to the idea that they were doing the right thing at the time. At the end of the film, one's mind is filled with the usual 20/20 hindsight solutions for the perverted conditions that enabled the slaughter, and a quiet determination to do whatever possible to change those conditions wherever they may still, unfortunately be found.
A powerful film, a definite must-see.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 2, 2008 4:23:32 PM PDT
G. S. Howell says:
So being a transvestite gives cause to lie and write bad checks?

In reply to an earlier post on Nov 6, 2008 1:16:41 AM PST
Hello, Mr. Perfect.
Do you really expect that brutal gang rape and triple murder is an answer to any misdemeanor?
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