By Liam S. O'Connor
The Movie Sleuth
The thing about film as a medium is that it can do many things. It can entertain, providing us comfort from our real world anxieties. We walk in theater and take for granted every waking moment of what is basking on that silver screen. But film can do so much more than just entertain us. It can illuminate untold stories and perspectives, revealing the truth that lies wide open in our wild. It has the ability to tell the stories we need to hear and no form of filmmaking uses that truth telling power than the documentary. It takes reality and packages it in a form that is accessible and can provide power to the underserved or fringes of our cold world. Director Laura Paglin uses this expository power in her haunting new documentary, Unseen.
Unseen is the story of the women who are impacted by a series of horrifically violent acts. After a two-year period during which numerous women were reported missing in Cleveland’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood, a reported rape leads police to a grisly discovery: a serial killer, operating virtually in plain sight. The police discovered the bodies of eleven women decomposing in the house and yard of known sex offender Anthony Sowell.
Unseen asks the questions of why none of the cops looked into these grizzly and brutal murders and why it took them two years to look into it. Why did none of the neighbors turn a blind eye to what was happening? With access to the surviving victims, Unseen tells a bone-chilling story about the heartbreaking invisibility of women on the margins of society and raises troubling questions about why this killing spree went unnoticed for so long.
There are documentaries that haunt you to your core. Stories that are so heartbreaking and real that they had to be told. Unseen is that film. We need to know and listen to these stories so that we can prevent further tragedies. Unseen is directed with profound empathy, aiming to give the survivors and the victims power and agency over their story. The focus is not on the tabloid fodder of the gruesome murders but on the victims and the world around these murders. This is not an exploitative film that aims to shock and horrify it’s audience, this is one that aims to raise the survivors up. It is a film that asks us if we are doing enough for those who live on the margins of society. Are we doing the right thing? It is a humane film, one that is striving for justice and answers.
Unseen is a necessary and important film, one that reclaims the focus of the story to the people who matter, the survivors and the victims. It is a tough but important watch that I am thankful exists because we need to give the power back to the victims rather than glamorize the monster that victimized them. I hope more films follow this route.
Unseen is now available for sale and rental on Amazon Video, iTunes, and Vudu, as well as DVD and Blu-ray.