Family Affair: Peering In on Another Screwed-up Clan
The latest entry in the increasingly popular meet my fucked-up relatives documentary subgenre, Chico Colvards Family Affair spotlights a clan whose dysfunction makes Precious Joness household look like The Brady Bunch. A black Vietnam vet and himself an incest victim, Chicos father instituted a reign of physical- and sexual-abuse-laden terror over his Kentucky home throughout the 70s, leading indirectly to the then-10-year-old director shooting one sister in the leg and another sister later succumbing to paranoid schizophrenia. In an effort to understand his past actions and his sisters present-day decision to maintain a relationship with the father who repeatedly raped them, Colvard turns the camera on himself, his siblings, and, finally, his old man, whom he lets off easy by spoon-feeding him an excuse (the pressures of racial prejudice) for his actions. Still, Family Affair delves with fascination, if insufficient depth, into the psychology of victimhood, probing the tendency of the abused (represented by the directors sisters) to rationalize for their abusers. But while Colvards film is always queasily watchable, as with other voyeuristic entertainments that insist on making the private public, theres the sense that such matters may be better dealt with in-houseor in a courtroomthan writ large on a movie screen.
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