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Facing the Demons

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Crime is a prominent issue in today’s society, which is why Restorative Justice emphasises the way in which crime destroys lives in a community and so it seeks to repair the damage through a structured process. Facing the Demons, a documentary directed by Aviva Ziegler reviews the journey of the family and friends of 18 year old Michael Marslew, shot dead after an armed robbery in Jannali, Sydney as they confront two of the offenders responsible through a restorative justice conference. In this documentary, the audience is positioned to see some of the effects and impacts of Restorative Justice helping the victimised party to proceed in life, how the grief over Michael’s death is dealt with in unique ways by Michael’s family and friends, the issue that crime is everywhere in society and also to understand the reasoning behind the criminal acts, through the utilisation of documentary and narrative conventions. Restorative justice is promoted as one of the relevant ideas in the documentary.

Restorative justice a program made possible by Terry O’Connell aims to rehabilitate serious crime and also to deal with some of the impact of the death of a close person to someone’s life. The audience is encouraged to see restorative justice as having some impacts to a community and to both criminal offenders and victims of crime and also to see the process of how this conference works to resolve the harm caused by the crime and allow both parties to move on. In the documentary the viewer is positioned to see Terry O’Connell as the focaliser, the person responsible for bringing together the participants of the conference and the interviews. In an article interview he reveals,
“As a cop what I was desperate to do was to create a system whereby those who had hurt others could begin to understand what that was really about.”
This reflects O’Connell’s strong belief that the creation of empathy is not achievable through punishment and by rehabilitating the offenders they may begin to realise the gravity of their crime and accept full responsibility. A trust is forged between the viewer and Terry O’Connell, as he reassures the audience by his neutral voice, providing more detailed explanations about what was happening and interviewing the people involved in the process about their feelings and opinions. However, Terry O’Connell’s role is passive as he facilitates the conference and contributes with most of the voiceovers and interviews in between scenes of the documentary. The audience is encouraged to see Terry O’Connell as portraying a positive view of Restorative Justice in Facing the Demons. The documentary utilises a focaliser to persuade the viewer to adopt this concept of Restorative Justice that it is an effective solution when dealing with the impacts of crime because bring together the perpetrators and victims of crime to get some answers. Through the use of lighting, the interviews after the conference provided the audience some evidence about the effects of Restorative Justice such as promoting the making of amends, compassion and healing. Sarah a best friend of Michael suffers from chronic fatigue syndrome and she is portrayed as mentally and physically scarred because of Michael’s death. When Sarah was introduced, the audience is encouraged to feel some sympathy, for her and gain an insight into how Michael’s death has affected her. She lost her way in life, quitting school and not being able to function. After the conference, Sarah expresses her feelings during an interview,
“I can actually say that I’ve changed from before the conference... I’m a lot more happier (laughs), friendlier and confident again.”
By portraying Sarah as suffering and emotionally fragile, the audience is encouraged to see that through the conference she was able to deal with her fears and sorrows caused by the death of her best friend. The audience is able to sympathise with Sarah and also feel happy that Sarah was able to smile and laugh after the conference because it helped her deal with Michael’s death. The bright lighting used in the interviews symbolises happiness and helped to emphasise a positive atmosphere to encourage the audience to adopt this idea that restorative Justice is able to help victims deal with the death and help them to move on. Audiences are persuaded that Restorative Justice is successful in promoting the effects on the participants that enabled them to proceed in their lives, through the use of a focaliser and lighting. It almost turned into a grieving session for some of the participants as the conference brought back feelings of anger, hurt and anguish but for others the conference became too emotional and did not help them find a resolution and closure to Michael’s death.

Facing the Demons portrays how grief, is dealt with differently by each individual. Joan defines the devastation caused by Michael’s death and also questions the motives of the offenders present during the conference as she is concerned that that they may try to use the conference to gain some advantage over the criminal justice system. Joan expresses her loss when she says, ‘I died that night with my son’ during the conference and this is essentially a powerful statement in the documentary because it represents to viewers how much the victim’s family and friends have lost. Joan is portrayed as very emotional and aggressive parent who is still grieving after years of her son’s death. Through the use of symbolism, her actions during the conference represent her persona but more importantly her hatred when she throws a bag of dirt on the floor as a Christmas present for Karl Kramer.
“...when Christmas comes, when you think about your family this is what I’ll spend my Christmas day with, that’s what you’ve left me I hope your really proud of yourself.”
This symbolises what is left of Michael and this exaggerates Joan’s suffering and pain making it more dramatic and hurtful to show her loss. The documentary utilises symbolism to indicate to the audience that Joan is still grieving emotionally the death of her son and it encourages audience to see that individuals deal with grief in their own different way. Earlier Joan expressed “I think we all cope with grief the best way we can.” When Ken introduces the audience to the crime scene, he seems calm and emotionless yet he appears full of hatred and revenge. When he was doing a speech in front of students he is portrayed having some authority through the use of a low camera angle. Ken explains to the audience how he deals with his grief saying, “I still was angry, I still am today... But I decided to get even in a different way” so he created an organisation called ‘Enough is Enough’ an anti violence project in memory of his son. Through the use of this camera angle, the audience is encouraged to see how he has dealt with his grief creating a career out of the death of his son. The utilisation of selection of detail ensures that the audience gain an understanding of how Ken deals with his grief. When Lynette Marslew was interviewed about her husband she said,
“It’s just his way of keeping Michael still in his head and his life... He’s got Michael onboard with him, so he can’t forget him... his memory will live on.”
Lynette refers to Ken’s organisation which he set up in order to stop offenders from re-offending so that his son’s death was not a “waste”. This allows the audience to gain an insight to the reason why Ken formed his campaign. In resentment to her ex-husband Joan says earlier in the documentary,
“I guess that’s his way of coping with it, I don’t like it, I don’t agree with it but I have to accept it, Otherwise it would’ve send me round the twist and see him take over Michael’s life... it’s as if Michael never had a mother.”
The audience is encouraged to see Joan’s negative persona as this allows her to cling on to her son’s presence. In a recent 60 Minutes interview, Ken revealed that there is a better way of dealing with death and the he chose not to ‘wallow in self pity’ which he may have been referring to his ex-wife. The documentary highlights how Joan was scarred by the death of her son and how she will never be able to forgive her son’s killers unless they bring him back. Ken on the other hand, did something about his grief in order to cope with his son’s death and so he formed and organisation to stop offenders from re-offending. The use of symbolism, selection of detail and low camera angles position the audience to see how various individuals deal with grief in their own way and it ensures that the audience gain an understanding of how Ken and Joan deal with their grief from watching the documentary. Ken Marslew decided to raise his family in Jannali knowing that it was safe and yet his son was murdered, this proves that crime is everywhere and it is unavoidable.

Crime is a major problem in society. Crime not only affects the victims, but also the offenders. In the Facing the Demons, the audience is encouraged to see the portrayal of the emotions expressed by both the offenders and victims about the crime committed to see the reasoning behind the criminal act. Through the use of dialogue, the audience gain further insight to why Ken and his family settled in Jannali. During a speech he explains,
“Anyone here know where Jannali is? Jannali is a quiet little suburb in the south of Sydney and I chose that area to bring my family up in because nothing ever happened out there...it was safe, it was quiet, it was nice and yet my son was murdered.”
Ken is shown as having some authority over the audience through the utilisation of dialogue and a low camera angle to convince the audience and emphasise the idea that crime is everywhere in society, even if people are convinced that they are in a safe place. The audience is also encouraged to see that he makes this statement to promote his campaigning, to get people to support him. Facing the Demons also shows the effect of crime on the perpetrators like Karl Kramer providing some reasoning behind their actions. Karl explains during the conference,
“There is nothing I could say...I don’t have any excuses none whatsoever. You will never be able understand the justifications, the reasons and the state of mind because as you said we are different... you have a high moral code. There is nothing I do say so that you can understand what was going through my mind...unless you were me, if you walked exactly the same shoes as me.”

Through the use of close up shot the audience is influenced to empathise with Karl as he gets very emotional and is shown with tears as he faces those he had hurt. Karl clarifies this in the documentary in an attempt to show to viewers that he accepts what he did and that he has no excuses for what he has done but it also raises some questions to the audience like if he is trying to scheme. The audience is encouraged to adopt the idea that everyone has their own set of values and attitudes.

Facing the Demons by Aviva Ziegler has highlighted ideas about restorative justice, the grief over death and also the consequence of crime of the death Michael Marslew’s death. The audience is encouraged to see the effects and impacts of restorative justice on the participants that helped them to move on in life and feel positive again through the use of a focaliser and symbolism. Through selection of detail and symbolism grief is presented to the audience through Joan who is still very emotional and could not find a resolution or a closure to her son’s death while Ken copes with his grief by forming an organisation in memory of his son to stop offenders from reoffending. It also explores the idea that crime is everywhere in society and no matter when or where crime is always possible. The documentary also clarifies through Karl that the only way for people to understand to understand the reasoning behind the criminal act through dialogue and camera shots. Restorative justice showed some success helping the victims find the closure they needed to humanise Michael’s death, but what will it mean for those who could not find a resolution to it all?

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