Pervert Park, also known as the Palace Mobile Home Park in St. Petersburg Florida, is home to about 120 convicted sex offenders. While their time spent in prison is behind them, the adjustment to life outside is ongoing.
In the United States, a convicted sex offense can be anything from flashing to violent rape, public urination to incest, and a thousand different crimes between. Pervert Park looks at the lives of several inhabitants of the Florida Justice Transitions Center, and into their lives, trying to put the crimes into perspective. None of the people interviewed in the film are trying to justify or excuse their crimes, but they are teasing apart their lives, and allowing us to peer in.
A common thread running through the narratives in this documentary is that of secrets. Keeping abuse and rape a secret, hiding “deviant” fantasies and sexual orientation secret. But in Pervert Park, you can’t keep secrets. There are public counseling sessions, at least public to the others living in the park. You have to come clean to yourself about your past in order to have a future.
The residents that are featured in the film are Bill F, Tracy, Patrick, and James. All four are there for very different reasons, reasons that I’m not going to discuss, because they can be, and are very triggering to many people. But all of them are in the Park because they made mistakes, they made poor choices. But are some of the choices they made generational? Does your background, where and how you were raised, predestine you to relive and reenact those events? Their counselor seems to think so. But do the individuals? Some do, and some don’t, it’s a matter of taking personal responsibility for the actions made.
There are some interesting statistics at the end of the film, including some about the recidivism of sex offenders. The recidivism rate of criminals is 77%. For violent crime, it is 29%. For sex offenders in general, 5%, and for persons living at Pervert Park, it’s less than 1%. Which means that there is something right happening here. But a more disturbing statistic is that there has been a 23% increase in sex offender convictions nationwide, while Florida has seen a whopping 74% increase. Is this due to more offenders being caught, or is it due to more people being caught in entrapment? Responding to an online ad for a paid sexual encounter is being classified under the same umbrella as raping a child. Is this fair? Is this just? There are a lot of questions posed by the filmmakers, Frida & Lasse Barkfors, but the answers are not so easy to find. And maybe there really aren’t any answers that work universally. It all comes down to perspective maybe. Them vs Us. But is there that much of a distinction?
Frida & Lasse Barkfors
Best International Documentary Award at Bergen International Film Festival
Special Jury Prize for World Cinema – Documentary at Sundance Film Festival
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