Video Review: Facing the Demons
Ziegler. Producer Dee Cameron. Australian Film Finance Corporation.
1998. 57 Minutes.
Facing the Demons tells the story of the murder of Michael Marslew, during an armed robbery at a Pizza Hut in suburban Sydney. It follows the activities of Senior Sergeant Terry O’Connell of the New South Wales Police Service as he prepares the various participants for the conference and finally facilitates the highly emotional encounter between two of the defendants and friends and family of the victim.
Through interviews with the main participants, Marslew’s parents Joan Griffiths and Ken Marslew and one defendant, Karl Kramer, Facing the Demons demonstrates the various emotions surrounding such a crime and a possible face-to-face encounter. It highlights the many issues in preparing participants for the conference and organizing the actual event.
In the various interviews, Joan Griffiths describes the personal devastation caused by her son’s death. She recounts sitting in the court room listening to the mothers of the defendants talk about their sons and how good they had been as young boys without having the opportunity to talk about her son. She feels overlooked or abandoned by the system. She also questions the motives of the offenders who have agreed to participate in the conference. Joan is concerned that they will use the conference to gain some kind of advantage in the criminal justice system. This same fear is echoed by one of Michael’s co-workers who had been present during the robbery and debating participation in the conference.
Marslew’s father, Ken, is seen in various settings giving speeches and working on anti-violence issues in the wider community. Video footage of his response to the murder and the arrest help viewers realize the many emotions that surround such an incident. At the same time, Marslew’s public image becomes an issue during the pre-conference phase of the process. At one point, O’Connell explains to Marslew that some of the defendants are questioning his motives for the conference because of his public persona and the fact that cameras will be present in the meeting. Marslew is incensed by the idea that they would question his motives. In the end, one of the four defendants chose not to participate because of this issue.
Karl Kramer, one of the four defendants, describes his feelings about going into the conference. On one hand, it gives him the opportunity to do something that he has wanted to do since he was arrested: apologize to the family. He describes lying awake in his cell and thinking of the things that he would like to tell the family and then asking himself what right he had to communicate with them. As the conference grows closer, Kramer describes growing anxiety and doubts about the event.
In showing parts of the actual conference, Facing the Demons gives an honest portrayal of the many emotions experienced and expressed by participants during such a meeting. At the same time, it highlights the fact that such meetings are not easy for offenders as they face the real harm they have caused not only for the family of the victim but also in their own families. This is seen when the mother of one defendant describes her own feelings of guilt and breaks down in tears saying, “I’m sorry you lost your son.” As the conference is closed, some of the participants expressed thankfulness for the process.
In interviews after the conference, one friend of the victim explains that she feels lighter after the conference. Through the conference she had the opportunity to deal with her fears and sorrow resulting from the death of her best friend. At the same time, Joan Giffith’s describes a sense of disappointment. She had hoped that the conference would give her some closure but since it couldn’t bring her son back it couldn’t give her that closure. Again, the film provides an honest and hard look at the emotions expressed by participants going through such a process.
VHS copies are available for sale ($390) or rent ($75) from
First Run/Icarus Films
A downloadable study guide is also available at http://www.frif.com/guide/fac.pdf