Chicago Critics Film Festival 2018: Abducted In Plain Sight
By Andrea Thompson
The fact that “Abducted In Plain Sight” left me with a feeling of uncleanliness wasn't just because of its subject matter, believe it or not. It was the way the subject matter was handled. The documentary follows the horrific events that befell the Brobergs after Robert Berchtold, a charming and charismatic family friend, manipulated the family so he could abduct, brainwash, and rape 12-year-old Jan Broberg. Twice. Director Skye Borgman ruthlessly brings us the details of just how this happened, and the shocking ways the Brobergs coped with it, most of which were not in Jan's best interests. Borgman tells this story with their full cooperation, and they seem so desperate to get this off their chests and finally come clean that they are willing to tell all. Borgman doesn't assign blame, but perhaps she should. She certainly doesn't seem that interested in exploring the various societal forces which allowed these events to occur, aside from casually mentioning that the word pedophile wasn't a thing in the 70s, and just how their trusting and naive their small churchgoing community was. The fact that their Mormon religion probably left Jan more open to Berchtold's manipulation (it involved stories of alien abduction) isn't explored. Or how the Brobergs, and really their entire community, seemed more interested in their own comfort and conveying the proper image than in keeping their children safe. Nor does “Abducted” really go into how Jan recovered from her ordeal. Throughout the documentary, she is calm and composed as she tells her story, and she's since become an advocate for others who have been victimized. This woman is far more than the terrible things that happened to her, and she deserves to have her full story told. If we continue to treat incidents like this as mere fodder for cautionary tales, what kind of message does that send to those who are still suffering through this kind of abuse? They deserve far better too.