(Canada, 104 minutes)
Dir: Billie Mintz
Programme: Canadian Spectrum. (World Premiere)
State-appointed guardianship in Nevada has become an issue in elder abuse. Numerous cases of guardianship have cropped up, where older people are threatened to comply, and, once in custody, are forced to obey strict rules, which ensure their incarceration. In The Guardians, victims discuss their stories. We hear of people who were told if they did not leave their homes they would be arrested or sent to psychiatric facilities; who were told they could not speak languages other than English lest they be capable of expressing their distress, or who were drugged to the point of constant, dangerous sedation. Families discuss being at a loss, not understanding, where their parents have been taken or why, while the guardians begin to siphon off the assets of their wards who, being generally retired homeowners, have a lot to be taken.
Guardianship is shocking, and obscure. The issue is not well known, as demonstrated by the multiple victims who struggled with their circumstances, never knowing if they were being lied to or manipulated until it was too late. Director Billie Mintz’s investigation reveals much in a thorough, informative way, allowing audiences to learn about this issue. Working heavily with the victims themselves, The Guardians allows the people most impacted by guardianship to speak for themselves, relating their experiences and their desires for justice. Not only does the film have value as educational, but as a podium for these people to express themselves and, hopefully, find some closure (and justice) in the face of the horrible things done to them.
But overall, The Guardians is almost painfully conventional. Straightforward to a fault, it drags on despite its reasonable runtime. Mintz, taking center stage as he investigates on screen, becomes a guide for audiences. He emotes melodramatically—at every turn, he expresses amplified incredulity, sorrow, and rage, at guardians and the systems that protect them.
Mintz seems to have no tangible connection to the issue of guardianship. On the face of the people actually abused, the children that lost their parents, the families that have been financially manipulated, the constant focus on the director feels tasteless, and his exaggerated emotions, though warranted, seem to be just that: exaggerated. The Guardians sheds lights on an under-discussed issue, and it definitely has its heart in the right place. Hopefully, it can raise awareness and even cause change. But the way it is made is not entirely successful, and often takes away from the problems at hand.