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An Open Secret


Olivia Fougeriol/Disarming Films

<em>An Open Secret</em>
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It is possible there is an institutionalized issue of child molestation in Hollywood, but this is not the film to expose it. Amy Berg’s documentary An Open Secret is marketed as “the secret Hollywood doesn’t want you to know.” But the film obscures its “secret” through euphemism, irrelevant context, and insinuation.

In this film, former child actors accuse trusted adults with power over their careers of pedophilia (the film is rated R for descriptions of sexual abuse). These serious charges are framed by cheesy re-enactment footage and clips of more famous child actors that are not part of the film’s investigation. The irrelevant details are rampant: The parents of a child star talk about how they first met; famous names like Leonardo DiCaprio and Bryan Singer are referenced because they have some loose connection to someone else mentioned in the film.

The film almost seems more preoccupied with the fact that the crime might be happening in Hollywood than with the crime itself. The founding of Digital Entertainment Network (DEN) is explored in detail, even though it’s not entirely clear whether the filmmakers are targeting its three founders or its legitimacy as a film studio (DEN has been the target of several lawsuits alleging sexual abuse).

The film makes accusations and gets up close and personal with alleged molesters, but it relies heavily on hearsay, opinions, and “inappropriate” appearances to make its case. Corey Feldman, writing in 2013 about being sexually abused as a child star, provided a more persuasive look at pedophilia in Hollywood.

By trying to look at the big picture—how children are easy prey in Hollywood—An Open Secret glosses over the details, presents little evidence, and fails to make a call to action necessary to any reform-oriented documentary.


Alicia M. Cohn Alicia is a former WORLD contributor.

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