Saturday, March 10, 2007

Reel People: Catherine Keener is Gertrude Baniszewski

The film is An American Crime written and directed by Indianan Tommy O'Haver. Catherine Keener plays Indiana tortureress Gertrude Baniszewski co-staring with the up-and-coming Ellen Page as Sylvia Likens.

The story of Baniszewski and Likens is horrid, and takes place in the 1960s. Born in 1929 Baniszewski had her own sad life of family death, divorce, abuse, and miscarriages. But none of this compares to what happened in the 60s when Lester and Betty Likens truster their 15 and 16 year old daughters to the care of Baniszewski for 20 dollars a week. For various possible reasons, Gertrude did horrible things to the oldest daughter Sylvia...horrible things which are just too horrible to comprehend that involved intense torture, embarassment, mutilation, and eventually death. Beyond Gertrude's own sickness is the fact that she allowed many others to abuse Sylvia and participate in torture and no one reported anything. After the death of Sylvia, Gertrude was arrested, tried, and imprisoned. And despite the horrid events was eventually realeased on parole after 20 years in prison. Released in 1985 she died in 1990 of Lung Cancer.

This horrid story doesn't even sound like any type of entertainment at all. The story of abused children (like in Hounddog) certainly are horrifying, but that does not mean that challenging and dramatic roles like the one played by Keener and Page will perhaps will get them critical recognition for playing these Real (Reel) People.

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Anonymous said...

This by far is the most inhuman act of anyone.... not even to compare to what Hitler did that was a true crime in it self. The story should be told and the social workers network should never ever let this happen to another child again.... that is a true crime also......I hope that any money generated from this will not go to any person in that family for royalties...this it self would become yet another crime.....take the money and put it in the social workers system to intice them to get off their ass and give a damn and save a life.

Lonsoleil said...

I saw this movie on cable, and it was hard to watch.

I was completely unaware of this story before seeing this movie(I am 30) and will go to my death bed never having forgotten it.

I know that Gertrude died in 1990, but I wonder what happened to all of her children and the neighborhood children who participated in that poor girl's torture?

I know that two young men were given menial sentences, but how have they been able to continue their day-to-day lives knowing that they did this to somebody?