Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This Is Real TV - When Kids Get Life

When Kids Get Life
Written and Directed by Ofra Bikel

So since Big Brother and So You Think You Can Dance only occupies my Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, I had more time to catch up last night on TV from MONTHS ago (uh, I've been actually busy. okay? As much as I love watching TV, I actually do go out! I'm not a complete hermit! So to all those who claim they have no time for TV, I can attest, yes there is. (Again, 2 full time jobs, this blog, 4-5 nights out a week, gym... plus lots of TV! Totally doable! ha! Again, as long as you tape things, things that are TAPEWORTHY. GET IT?)

So I finally had time to watch the entire documentary When Kids Get Life on Frontline that aired on PBS a couple of months ago. The entire thing can also be viewed online at their site and I highly recommend it. It's quite a disturbing report following 5 kids that were sentenced to life without parole and questions this practice. Yeah, just a leeettle bit different than Big Brother or SYTYCD.

This is such a weighty issue and with some of the recent shootings and murders in Toronto, as well as the media frenzy over kids gone wild and dangerous, it's a serious concern that the media milks to frighten adults. When Kids Get Life zereos in on the full story of 5 such cases in Colorado, and offers some horrifying details about each case, and what led to each kid to murder. While murder is never really justified, do children, up to 18, fully understand the consequences, and does an unstable household (including abusive parents (sexually, mentally and physically)) justify what some of the kids did to end their situations? Does a robbery gone awfully wrong mean it was intent to murder? Does a friend caught at a bad time and place when his friend murdered his controlling mother, deserve the same sentence for essentially, not stopping his friend when he only had seconds to react, understand the situation and process what was happening before his eyes? And then, do these kids deserve LIFE in prison? Do kids EVER deserve LIFE? What happened to second chances? Bikel weaves through some of the laws that force judges to place these young people away for life, and the interviews show confused kids that are intelligent enough now, in their 20's, understanding of the graveness of their situation.

On the flip side, we hear the opposition to the empathy for these kids, and particularly the families of the victims, and again, my rage sympathizes for them too. However, is revenge or retribution actual justice?

Some heartbreaking and fascinating stuff and in certain cases (particularly Jacob Ind's and Erik Jensen's case, while Medina didn't really seem to get a fair trial) the punishment was far too harsh for the situation. Yes, I hear of random stabbings (I'm still horrified by those recent random stabbings by gangs in Calgary, as well as all the incidences that have been happening around the entertainment district in Toronto (there's an interesting article "Club Land" in this month's Toronto Life not available online)) and yes I want those people put away. In the same manner, are some kids just stuck in a horrible situation and find themselves making the biggest mistake of their lives? And should this cost them the rest of theirs from that point on?

The film itself is done quite simply, mostly through quiet interviews. You can tell there was none of that hardhitting style the cable news networks and nighttime news magazines usually go for. It's contemplative, honest and let's the story roll out without ever feeling like it was handled. Maybe the kids are the best liars in the world, and get Bikel, and be extension, us the viewers, to feel sorry for them and believe their stories, or, Bikel has uncovered a flaw in the justice system that unfairly sweeps the young and troubled away from the rest of society.

Okay, I need something light again. Thank goodness Big Brother is on tonight. A house full of fools who chose to lock themselves in a compound (for the summer).

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