Published Nov 01, 2005By formal aesthetic standards, Thieves of Innocence is pretty shoddy - a sloppy, overheated documentary that takes all manner of cheap shots, makes one or two spurious points and staggers drunkenly in the direction of its thesis when it should be drawing a straight line. But there's no arguing with its numbers and they paint a frightening picture of Quebec's child protection system.
The film starts off badly, making rather obvious points about the horror of child abuse, running off famous cases (like that of Nathalie Simard) and hammering the sensational point that, indeed, abuse is awful without really sketching the social mechanisms that make it possible. But all is forgiven once it turns its attention to the outrageous abuses of the system, which is apparently under-funded (when it's not building massive and expensive headquarters for its top dogs), that caseworkers are overloaded and play musical chairs with their "clients" and that the abusers ultimately have more rights than their victims, who wind up mistreated in group homes that are less attractive and just as brutal as the prisons housing their tormentors.
Director Paul Arcand is a little too pleased with himself and his screaming headline approach, and every time his narration turns to you and points out what's blindingly obvious you want to slap him in the face. But though his approach is a big nuisance, there's no denying the appalling series of trials that face children who get passed around to an endless stream of foster parents, are punished for acting out by the group homes and wind up kicked out at the age of 18 to a world that they can no longer comprehend. There's a better film to be made, but this will do nicely for starters. (Alliance Atlantis)