In a calm, straightforward fashion, documentarian Adi Sideman, in "Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys," invites several members of NAMBLA, the 1,500-member North American Man/Boy Love Assn. (which counts poet Allen Ginsberg among its members), to speak for themselves.
They explain that the organization is a support group and does not arrange meetings between men and boys. They all deplore being designated as child molesters, insisting that all forms of intimacy be strictly consensual. Some say they live--or try to live--sexually repressed lives in a society so hostile to them, but others are candid, even defiant, about their determination to have sexual and/or romantic relationships with underage youths.
Sideman also reports on the angry gay community reaction to known boy-lovers, and he examines the thorny challenge it presents to gay-rights leaders, who worry that groups like NAMBLA play into conservatives' fears that adult gays would like to "recruit" young children.
Although it is not possible for Sideman to begin to suggest answers to the emotionally charged issues his subject raises, he fails to deal with a substantial range of questions. We get the impression that none of these otherwise fairly ordinary men are attracted to pre-adolescents, but what age of consent would they pick if they had the choice? A number of them talk about the flirtatiousness of some of the boys with whom they have become involved. They point out that American society, with its puritanical roots, denies how early sexuality occurs in humans.
But what of the whole question of \o7 responsibility \f7 adults have to children, especially in regard to sexual and emotional situations? The irony is that Sideman, in not coming to terms with key implications in his explosive subject, makes himself vulnerable to hate-mongers' accusations that he has merely given NAMBLA a forum to espouse its cause.
"Chicken Hawk" will be preceded by the 25-year-old educational short "Meeting Strangers: Red Light, Green Light," which warns small children against strangers, counseling them to seek out the safety of parents, teachers and police. The film serves as a reminder that nowadays we are more willing to admit that, when it comes to children, no group of adults is automatically "safe."
\o7 * MPAA rating\f7 : \o7 Unrated. Times guidelines: Although nothing graphic is depicted, its subject matter is suitable for the most mature audiences.
'Chicken Hawk: Men Who Love Boys'
A Stranger Than Fiction Films release of a Side Man production. Producer-director Adi Sideman. Executive producers Sam Sideman, Peter Smith. Cinematographer-editor Nadav Harel. Music Frank, Ravel. Running time: 57 minutes.
\o7 * In limited release at the Los Feliz 3, 1822 N. Vermont Ave., Los Angeles\f7 , \o7 (213) 664-2169.\f7