REVIEW: Facing Fear [2013]

Score: 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½

Rating: NR | Runtime: 23 minutes | Release Date: 2013 (USA)
Director(s): Jason Cohen

“I don’t know if I could forgive somebody the way he’s been able to forgive me”

While it may be a “talking head” documentary, Jason Cohen‘s Oscar nominated short Facing Fear is anything but boring or static. It’s a story about two men who grew up in fear of the unknown, the different. Matthew Boger had a very Christian upbringing where his being gay found even worse disgust at home than that of his classmates at school. Tim Zaal grew up in an Anglo neighborhood feeding on the aggression of the punk movement in a non-constructive way at a time when an African American shot his brother. Matthew was thrown out on the streets and Tim took to them with a Mohawk and an attitude for pain.

They both had fear—one was victimized by it while the other was the victimizer so he wouldn’t have to—and both collided one fateful night in their twenties that left the former for dead. It’s an incident neither could ever fathom forgetting, each pretending it didn’t happen as they moved on in disparate directions to bury it until its last remnants remained in nightmare. Matthew got himself off the streets and into a career advocating the tolerance no one in his life ever showed him while Tim became a full-fledged white supremacist until age and the progressing culture opened his eyes to the pain he wrought. And then the unthinkable happened: they found themselves sitting across from one another twenty-five years after that first encounter, neither knowing what to say.

Cohen’s document of where they’ve gone since is probably the same speech and content as the talks Matthew and Tim give to promote compassion, empathy, and forgiveness. It may not sound original as a result, but what better way to expand their message’s reach than to put it on film and subsequently on a stage that could very well earn it an award in front of millions on primetime television? Facing Fear doesn’t need visual tricks or cheesy reenactments when it has two confident orators relaying their poignant story and evolution that we’re all capable of achieving if we let the pain and anger in ourselves go away to help accomplish the same with those around us. When the story is this remarkable—and it should be required viewing for schools nationwide—talking heads are more than enough.

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