The Hideout, written and directed by Southern Adventist University alum Daniel Wahlen, tells the story of a young girl who is taken advantage by her favorite teacher. Along with her friend, Sam, she is able to muster the courage to tell her mother what happened. Simple in premise, but immensely powerful, this beautifully shot and scored film touches on one of the most important issues that nobody in the church likes to talk about – child abuse.
Christa Beth Campbell’s performance as Holly succeeds in pulling us into the experience of a child who has their innocence stolen and can’t pick up the pieces. In some of the final scenes in the treehouse, Holly is so ashamed of what happened that she shies away from the touch of her own mother, Sarah, portrayed beautifully by Tomi Lavinder. The adorable Brogan Hall captures the hearts of the audience as Holly’s best friend Sam, who ultimately discovers what Mr. Williams did and helps Holly tell her mother. The sinister and nuanced character of Mr. Williams, played by Jim Chandler, is a character you can’t quite figure out, and makes you uncomfortable from the moment you first see him. The acting in this film most definitely makes it work.
Though the story tends to tie things up in a neat, if wrinkled and worn, bow, it is the only film I have seen that has captured so truthfully what sexual abuse does to a child. Shame, guilt, fear, loss of self-worth, and not being able to tell anyone. The rawness of Holly’s story and Wahlen’s directing comes from personal experience. He was inspired to do the film because a good friend from his childhood told him years later that she had been abused by a family member of Daniel’s.
In this story, Holly eventually tells her mother and Mr. Williams is locked up, which is unfortunately not how most stories of child abuse end. Many kids don’t share that they have been abused for many years, even into adulthood, and in some cases they never tell. This film not only gave the character of Holly a voice, but also gives a voice to so many who have suffered abuse and celebrates their bravery and strength.
How the conversation about whether or not film should be used in our churches has gone lately (i.e. The Record Keeper), this film might make some uncomfortable. It portrays a particularly vile evil and a particularly emotional darkness. It’s in portraying that darkness, though, that the film finds its power. Last May, the film was well received at the GC’s enditnow: Summit on Abuse, helping to make the stories of abuse tangible and facilitate conversation. As actor Jim Chandler said about working on the film, “While its unfortunate that there is evil, the evil has to be portrayed and it has to be portrayed truthfully.”
Do yourself a favor and catch the film online at The Hideout’s Vimeo channel, http://bit.ly/1Bk8A2E. Be sure to check out the behind the scenes shorts with cast and crew, too.
*Stats from the film: By the time they are 18, 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually abused. Only 46% of these crimes are reported. Seek help at www.nationalcac.org or 1-800-4-A-CHILD.
Screenshots from the Film
Heather is the director of video for TheHaystack.tv. She is also a freelance writer and videographer. She is passionate about combining faith and art to produce great storytelling and currently lives in Berrien Springs, Michigan with her husband Jonny and their dog Leo.