It’s difficult to separate form and content when it comes to reviewing documentaries, and it’s something I’m always disappointed to see when I read documentary reviews. Engaging content does not make a good film, and it’s unfair to review a documentary based entirely around the subject. Sometimes content rises above an average documentary because it’s so powerful, but it pulls the wool over the less-than filmmaking. No Place to Hide is one of those films.
Providing an overview of the tragic Rehtaeh Parsons case, where a teenage girl who was sexually assaulted at a party faced harassment from classmates and ambivalence from the police until she finally took her own life in 2013, No Place to Hide bounces back and forth between what it actually wants to be about. Rape culture? Anonymity? Cyberbulling? Internet privacy? It covers everything at once and manages to say almost nothing.
I don’t want to discount the suffering Rehtaeh’s parents undergo every day. But while making them the sole speakers of the documentary is somewhat powerful, it’s also a sloppy and amateurish choice on behalf of director Rama Rau. There’s a particularly cringeworthy instance where Rehtaeh’s heartbroken father talks about his support for controversial Canadian bill C-13 and Stephen Harper. This moment is presented without criticism or commentary, clearly the personal opinion of someone for whom this topic is incredibly personal. But it’s a bit of a bizarre choice for a film that had previously taken such an anti-police, pro-anonymity stance to suddenly support a bill that could potentially mean a loss of privacy for Canadians.
This is just one example of how Rau throws a few things against the wall and hopes that they’ll stick. Unfortunately, No Place to Hide ends up being a long interview with two grieving parents, instead of a fully fleshed out documentary on a subject that is in desperate need of discussion.
P.S. – No Place to Hide screened with the short film Survivor’s Rowe, a powerful piece on the sexual abuse of young boys in First Nations communities and just a way better documentary in general. Would definitely recommend it over No Place to Hide.
Laura covered the 2015 Hot Docs Film Festival live from Toronto. For more coverage of the fest, click here.