A film by Roger Weisberg“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” - Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
A film by Roger Weisberg
76 minutes (with chapters) & 55 minute version
“The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms
Why are some children permanently damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive? To help answer this question, filmmaker Roger Weisberg dug into his extensive film archives to update a few of the stories of the abused and neglected children he filmed decades ago. Viewers are given a unique time-lapse perspective on how the trauma that these children experienced shaped their lives as adults. BROKEN PLACES interweaves these longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few nationally renowned experts in neurobiology and early childhood development in order to illuminate the devastating impact of childhood adversity as well as the factors that can foster resilience.
"I think you’ve produced one of the best documentaries on early childhood adversity that I’ve seen. The incredible quality of what people shared with [Weisberg] on camera about their personal struggles over a period of more than two decades is a remarkable tribute to [his] professional skills and to the authentic personal commitment [he] brought to this project. - Jack P. Shonkoff, M.D., Director, Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University
“This documentary is remarkably unique in offering a perspective of lives unfolding over decades. There’s nothing more powerful than showing what happens to people, instead of implying or telling…The documentary is sure to be shown tens of thousands of times in communities across the world that are launching and growing their ACEs initiatives, and need some powerful inspiration to create healthy cities, states and countries.” - Jane Stevens, Founder, ACEs CONNECTION/ ACEsTOO HIGH
“…a splendid job laying out the ACEs framework - better than I’ve seen anywhere. And the protagonists and their stories were remarkable – telling, eloquent and heart-breaking…I was delighted [Weisberg] spotlighted some of the successful trauma-informed interventions which work! So many are prepared to write off kids suffering from complex trauma…Poverty and racism are today’s major diseases of childhood.” - Larry Adelman, Co-director & Head of Production, California Newsreel Producer, The Raising of America
“The message of Broken Places is clear. It says that toxic stress and its downstream consequences are costly. It calls us all to create better interventions based on this understanding. And for this reason, it is a powerful tool for good in strengthening the work of my organization and our partners.” - Elisabeth D. Babcock, MCRP, PhD, President and CEO EMPath - Economic Mobility Pathways
“The film represents an extraordinary lifelong project. We would live in a better society if this film was required watching for all policy makers.” - Rahil D. Briggs, PsyD, National Director, HealthySteps ZERO TO THREE
“It’s a beautiful film…The stories are powerful and moving and the contrast in seeing people as children and then as adults is very powerful. There is enough hope in it to inspire change while not soft pedaling the enormity of the problem.” - Sandra Bloom, Co-Director Center for Nonviolence and Social Justice, Drexel University
“How truly unique and very special to have the opportunity to follow alongside these families and their life stories as they have unfolded over so many years… So moving to hear the voices of the children now as adults.” - Renée Boynton-Jarrett, MD, ScD, Associate Professor, Boston University School of Medicine/Boston Medical Center
Having spent the better part of the past forty years making films about intergenerational poverty, child welfare, and health disparities, I’ve often wondered why some children are permanently damaged by early adversity while others are able to thrive. Ernest Hemingway had a poignant way of describing this enigma in A Farewell to Arms where he wrote, “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong at the broken places.” Hemingway’s observation about adversity and resilience captured the key question I wanted to address in my 33rd national public television documentary, BROKEN PLACES. Experts have long understood that there is a strong statistical correlation between early adversity and poor mental and physical health outcomes. Instead of rehashing this correlation, I realized that I was sitting on a unique film archive that could enable me to dramatically illustrate how the trauma experienced by the children we filmed decades ago ultimately shaped their lives as adults. After paying to keep my films and videos in a climate-controlled storage facility for four decades, I realized I finally had an opportunity to put some of my old footage to good use. I revisited about a dozen of my young film subjects and chose three of the most moving stories to update with my film crew. Ultimately, we were able to offer viewers a unique time-lapse perspective on how the troubled children we profiled decades ago evolved into the adults they are today. Although there have been other documentaries on this topic, none have been able to present the devastating impact of childhood trauma or the remarkable characteristics of resilience in the context of moving stories that span decades.
In BROKEN PLACES we interweave these longitudinal narratives with commentary from a few nationally renowned experts. Before my interviews with these experts, I asked them to screen the stories of our subjects, so instead of making broad, abstract, general comments, their observations are grounded in moving narratives. In addition to shedding light on exciting new developments in neuroscience, they also help explain the kind of life outcomes we reveal - why some of our subjects were able to make it while others were not. Along the way, they also help answer some far-reaching questions. How does early adversity affect the brain of young children? Why are some children resilient while others are not? Is resilience determined by genes, the environment, or some interaction between the two? Can we identify children who are likely to be resilient as well as children likely to experience bad mental and physical health outcomes down the road? What kinds of early childhood interventions strengthen resilience, and how can we make these interventions widely available to the children most at risk? I believe that the answers to these questions hold the keys to solving the greatest public health crisis we face today.
- Roger Weisberg, Director