While many of us have become obsessed with true-crime documentary series and podcasts, I think that Dear Zachary still holds the title of most shocking and disturbing documentary movie, while Netflix’s recent Abducted in Plain Sight may come in second — a distant second, mind you, because even though In Plain Sight involves a child bride, pedophilia, and aliens, the traumatic emotional scars of watching Dear Zachary may never fade.
That said, Abducted in Plain Sight is gripping, and the turn upon turn upon turn the case takes may leave the jaws of viewers hanging for the full 90-minute runtime. It is the tale of Jan Broberg, a girl who was abducted by a close family friend, Robert Berchtold, at the age of 12. And again at age 14. It also involves a Mexican marriage, an FBI investigation, an illicit affair, a handjob, and an “alien plot” to impregnate Jan Broberg before she turned 16.
The parents of Jan Broberg, however, have received a massive amount of backlash, some of it deserved (allowing themselves to be blackmailed) and some of it not (because it’s divorced from the context of the 1970s when the threat of a best-friend pedophile wasn’t a known danger). Some viewers have been hard on the parents for not doing enough to protect their daughter, but one deleted scene provides some important context.
According to the film’s director, Skye Borgman, several scenes were left on the cutting room floor in order to “streamline” a documentary already packed with twists. One of those scenes involved Jan’s mother, Mary Ann, and Mary Ann’s brother, meeting Berchtold in a parking lot with a gun, allegedly to threaten violence if he didn’t leave Jan alone. Clearly, the plot did not work, but at the very least, it showed the lengths that Mary Ann Broberg was willing to go in an effort to extricate her daughter from the situation.
On the other hand, refusing to press charges against a family friend who abducted their daughter because mom was sleeping with him and Dad had given him a handjob is also pretty damning. Nevertheless, despite their many mistakes, it’s impossible to come away from the documentary without understanding how much Jan’s parents loved her.
In any respect, Borgman also has plans for a sequel, which would dig more into the role that religion played in the saga, something upon which Kate wrote about at length here.
Source: Vanity Fair
Header Image Source: Netflix