You've seen 'Athlete A.' How do you watch Olympic gymnastics now?

Amy Kaufman, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

Shenk: We did know about the film and that it was going on. But good work makes its way out there, and people respond to it even if there is competition. We were never really that concerned. We had a very special corner to the story. We hope that there will be a number of films -- this is the biggest scandal ever in the history of sports. It's going to take a lot to unpack all the damage and the success of the survivors. We celebrate that.

Cohen: There were some ancillary characters in our film who let us know they were going to be participating in Erin (Lee Carr's) film. And that was a factor for us. We weren't going to make them some huge participant. It's tough, because you're already navigating a tough story and you want to get it right. I think we were a thorn in their side as well, when they tried to get access to some of our subjects and it just wouldn't happen.

Shenk: We decided not to watch their film, because we really didn't want to color our story. Our producer watched it, mostly because we wanted to make sure there wasn't some kind of fact-checking thing -- we wanted to make sure we weren't missing something or getting something wrong.

Cohen: We should probably watch it now.

Were you surprised that so many projects were made about the Nassar scandal? There was also a popular NPR podcast about the case, 2018's "Believed."

Shenk: It seems like documentaries are just more valuable now when they were when we first started making films. We were tickled that Netflix wanted to pick this film up, knowing that (the HBO) film was already out there. They said to us, 'Let's not rush it. We're not competing with that film. You guys take the time to get it right, and it will find an audience.' I get the sense that some of the big streamers are more focused on who their audience is than who it isn't. It gave us a lot of confidence -- if they're not worried about it, they must know something we don't know.


Cohen: We're living in an era where truth is power, and it's very hard to know what the truth is. We're living in a funhouse. The general public turns to documentary to understand what is happening and to get a deep story. It has become a commodity. If you have a good story, you will fall over two or three people making that same story.

Denhollander: The interesting thing about this story is that it actually took an incredible amount of effort to get people interested in it. I'm very grateful about where it has come, but it took a lot to get here. We weren't boys. It wasn't a famous football program. When I first came out with my story, I got more requests from international publications than national ones. We have a very star-driven culture, and so what to someone overseas was a very important abuse case did not register on the national scale. If you look at the Google results, spikes in the news stories didn't start happening until we got to (Nassar's) sentencing. You saw interest almost immediately with the Penn State case.

Why do you think that is?

Denhollander: It goes back to: How much is a little girl worth? It shouldn't take more than 100 damaged little girls talking about something to get people to pay attention. That's something I hope to see change -- the value of the little girl who is not famous weighed just as heavily as one who is.


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