At DOC NYC – “The Children Next Door”

Filmmaker Doug Block

“The Children next Door” is one of the most striking short films at DOC NYC, the documentary film festival running from November 8-15 at IFC Center and the SVA Theatre.  The documentary was photographed and directed by Stuyvesant Town filmmaker Doug Block.  The 36-minute-long film is an intimate look at the Waldroup family, one that is recovering from a horrible act of violence committed by their father and husband, Brad Waldroup.

Doug, who has mined his own family relationships involving parents and children so successfully in his personal documentaries “51 Birch Street” (2005) and “The Kids Grow Up” (2009), now explores a darker aspect of family relationships.  In “The Children Next Door” he looks at a family disrupted by violence and attempting to heal. 

“The Children Next Door” is an unflinching look at Penny Waldroup and her children, Chelsea, Emily, Elijah and Ashley.  In 2006, after filing for a divorce from her Brad, Penny was shot three times and attacked with a machete, by her husband.  Penny’s best friend was killed in the attack, which was witnessed by Penny’s four children.  The violent incident occurred in San Diego, California.  “The Children Next Door” picks up Penny and her four children, present day, living in Georgetown, Tennessee.  The family moved to Tennessee for a less expensive standard of  living when Penny could not work while recovering from the attack, which has left her with a missing finger.

Part of the healing process for daughter Chelsea involves the possibility of visiting her father in prison.  Chelsea’s relationship with her parents is quite complex.   While she has witnessed her father’s violence, Chelsea also explains that he was a good role model.  Penny is apprehensive about, but is not forbidding, the visit.

Doug wisely keeps his questions to a minimum, allowing his subjects to tell their story, which they do with great candor.  He has clearly established a mood of trust that enables the family, the kids in particular, to open up to him.  When Doug does ask Emily what she would want more than anything else the child replies, “Probably a dad, I guess.”  Son Elijah explains that his memories of the attack fade with each day.  It is Interesting though that, following a moment of reflection, Elijah comes to the realization of, “Actually, I remember everything.”

Doug’s quietly beautiful cinematography of the Tennessee countryside counters the ugliness and trauma of what the family has been through.  The footage has been effectively and efficiently edited by Federico Rosenzvit.  The score by Taylor Deupree sets the somber yet hopeful mood for the emotional recovery of this family, years after the attack.

“The Children Next Door” is a quiet, intimate story about trauma, resiliency and family.  As Chelsea so nicely puts it, “If it wasn’t for each one of us sticking together, our family would have fell apart.”

For more information on this film visit http://www.TheChildrenNextDoor.com.

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on November 14, 2012, in Documentary and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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