April 28, 2019
by Carla Hay
Directed by Sasha Joseph Neulinger
World premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 27, 2019.
It’s too bad that the documentary “Rewind” has a such a generic title, because this stunning debut from director Sasha Joseph Neulinger has so many important messages about complex family relationships and confronting your past that it delivers an emotional knockout to anyone who watches it. You would never know from this movie’s simple title how deep it goes in its raw and honest analysis of a family torn apart by secrets and lies—and how the family has tried to heal in the aftermath. However, it would reveal too many spoilers to go into specifics about who caused this family crisis.
What can be said about “Rewind” is that it’s a powerfully edited compilation of footage (mostly home videos) from Neulinger’s Pennsylvania childhood in the 1990s, when he went through horrific abuse. It’s best not to give away spoiler details to anyone who hasn’t seen the movie, but it’s enough to say that the abuse was reported, and it involved court cases, which are chronicled in the last third of the film. The movie’s narrative gives the details, bit by bit (much like a puzzle), until the full scope of the horror is revealed.
It would’ve been easy for Neulinger to provide narrator voiceovers, explaining what he was thinking and feeling while you’re watching the footage. Instead, he lets the footage do most of the talking, in addition to doing new interviews with members of his family, the psychotherapy community, law enforcement and survivor advocate groups.
If you don’t know his story, watching the movie unfold is like watching a mystery where there’s a feeling of dread that bad things are going to happen to good people—and the sad part is that it’s not just a movie, because it happened in real life. You want to find out who committed the crimes, and for justice to be served.
The documentary is also a cautionary lesson for parents and others on how to spot signs of abuse. In addition, Neulinger hopes that this documentary will also improve the ways that police and other law enforcement interrogate children who report abuse. As explained at the end of the film, Neulinger is working with organizations such as Mission Kids that advocate for law enforcement to have better methods for getting victim statements in abuse cases. Neulinger and others believe that law enforcement should be required to videotape a main cohesive statement from an abuse survivor, instead of forcing the survivor to relive the trauma with repeated interrogations because the first statement wasn’t properly documented.
“Rewind” is not an easy film to watch, but it’s an inspiring example of how someone can confront trauma and use the art of moviemaking as a form of therapy and as a way to help others.
UPDATE: FilmRise will release “Rewind” on digital and VOD on May 8, 2020. PBS will premiere “Rewind” as part of the “Independent Lens” series on May 11, 2020.