Excerpt from a synopsis of Hounddog written by Trevor Groth:
"Like a lily growing in the swamp, Lewellen, a precocious southern girl, radiates splendor amidst the murk that surrounds her. She is being raised by her abusive father and disciplinarian grandmother, and finds comfort, joy, and strength in music-she is obsessed with Elvis Presley and breaks into his songs whenever the mood strikes. In addition to music, playing in the woods with her friend, Buddy, brings a few other moments of childhood happiness. Their playing drifts toward innocent sexual games, however, and it becomes evident that Lewellen has a painful history that she keeps buried inside. When another tragedy strikes, will her spirit finally break, or will her inspiring resiliency carry her on? ... Writer/director Deborah Kempmeier displays a delicate touch in handling the horrific events, which makes their impact even greater. Lacing the film with compelling imagery, she crafts a powerful story about an indomitable spirit and the power of the blues."
There is a tremendous furor over “Hounddog”, Dakota Fanning’s new film. It’s not the first film to depict a child being raped (Bastard Out of Carolina, Sleepers), but I have heard more about this film than any of the ones that preceded it. Perhaps this is due to just how high profile Fanning is, how widely her career is followed. She is a household name and no one is comfortable with the subject matter depicted in this film.
That’s a good thing. We shouldn’t be comfortable with it. That doesn’t mean that these things don’t need to be said, shouldn’t be portrayed in popular media in a way that raises awareness. There is a long tradition of directors tackling issues like racism, poverty, domestic abuse, rape, gang violence and every other horrific thing that faces us in the real world. Film can entertain, but it can also increase public conciousness about difficult subjects. The writer and director, Deborah Kampmeier, is bravely tackling a subject no one wants to talk about.
Like most of the world, I have not yet had the opportunity to see this film. But I can tell you this: I learned about sex when I was six years old from a friend who was the same age. Her mother, like mine, was a single parent, and sometimes left her with the man who lived next door when she was at work. He molested her and attempted to rape her, stopped only by the fact that her tiny body could not accomodate him. Another woman I am close to was raped by a friend's older brother when she was 12. One of my friends in high school was molested by her own brother when she was very young. I knew a girl who, at 14, thought she was in "an adult relationship" with her 34 year old legal guardian because he was having sex with her. When I was in high school, I knew many girls who had had personal experience with rape and sexual assault before they reached sexual maturity. I actually considered myself fortunate and unusual in that my first personal experience with sex was not until I was older and was concentual and positive. So many women and men live with the scars of a childhood sexual assault. Just because their stories are painful and ugly does not change the fact that they are valid and important and deserve to be told.
Dakota Fanning is an intelligent, well adjusted child who is surrounded by people who protect her. She has given interviews about the film, about the measures taken to ensure her comfort and about the fact that she did NOT act out this scene - it is a brief set of shots of her hands and face and other things that suggest the content intended for the scene. Instead of complaining about imagined abuses of a well protected young actor, the groups that are in such an uproar could better spend their time volunteering for rape hotlines or domestic abuse shelters. They could be reaching out to people who actually need their help and concern.
Hounddog at IMDB
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Mind you, some of the reviews haven't been so hot. I have NO idea if I will think the movie is GOOD. I merely bristle at the fact that I might not get the opportunity to find out for myself if it never reaches wide release and that special interest groups get in an uproar over all sorts of films they haven't seen just because they have personal objections to a film's content. I remember when there was an absurd fuss about Kevin Smith's DOGMA. People really need to find better things to do with their time.