I never set out as a documentary filmmaker to save the world. Whether as a director or producer, I think of myself, first and foremost, as a storyteller, with a particular interest in family dynamics (including, at times, my own). It's not that my films don't deal with serious themes, they just invariably feature a strong story in the foreground.

When producer Lynda Hansen brought me on to direct THE CHILDREN NEXT DOOR, I was – like most people, I fear – pretty ignorant about the issue of childhood domestic violence. Obviously we live in a culture where abuse is prevalent. It gets reinforced every time we pick up a newspaper or turn on the television. But when I read some of the appalling statistics, I was utterly gob-smacked.

We live in a world so besieged with problems that we face the ever-present danger of compassion fatigue. When I finally met and began shooting with the Waldroup family and learned firsthand of their remarkable story, I felt we had a unique opportunity to present a human face to the mind-numbing statistics and help make a real difference.

THE CHILDREN NEXT DOOR deals with domestic violence, of course, but the focus is on a mother, Penny, and her four young children struggling years after the fact to put a catastrophic event behind them and begin to heal. Most powerfully, it's about the complicated and thorny relationship between Penny and her eldest child Chelsea, which transforms dramatically in the course of the film’s 36 minutes.

My hope is that after viewers see THE CHILDREN NEXT DOOR, the statistics on childhood domestic violence will take on a new meaning. For behind each and every number is a devastating personal story much like that of the Waldroup’s.

I also hope that by focusing on the Waldroup children's perspective, the film will help inspire other young people and adults caught up in violent domestic situations to break away and join the cause to "break the cycle" of childhood domestic violence.

My heartfelt thanks to Penny and her four children - Chelsea, Ashley, Elijah and Emily - for their willingness to share their feelings so candidly on camera. Their courage and trust made all the difference.

Doug Block, Director, The Children Next Door

 


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