Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s portrait of healing explores how abuse affects children and reframes their world.
Old home movies can be funny, sweet, and sometimes even a little cringe-worthy. But imagine if they showed a heartbreaking and devastating past?
It’s in those home movies that filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger saw a typical, happy-go-lucky child turn into an angry and withdrawn little boy. That four-year-old boy was him.
Rewind, Neulinger’s autobiographical documentary about surviving multi-generational child sexual abuse, is coming to the Traverse City Film Festival after its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. Neulinger will also be in attendance.
Neulinger was 23 when he started work on the documentary – his first feature-length film and directorial debut.
“Six years ago I was at a crossroads,” said Neulinger, 29. Though he was doing well, he said – having finished college and working at National Geographic – “things from my past, that I didn’t understand, were affecting my present day life. I had unanswered questions about my childhood and what had happened to me. Questions I felt could be answered through the home videos.”
So he asked his father to send him the recordings – some 200 hours worth.
“Basically, from the time I was born, cameras were in my life,” said Neulinger, whose father, also a filmmaker, spent countless hours recording his family’s daily life and helped inspire his son’s interest in film.
Neulinger digitized the home videos and “re-watched his childhood,” he said. He watched his abusers interacting with him at family events. But he also watched some good moments.
“It was an incredible experience,” he said of the process – allowing him to understand his past and create a new context, but also to reclaim beautiful memories.
When Neulinger was four years old he was sexually abused for the first time by his uncle. The abuse continued for several more years and included other family members. He disclosed the abuse when he was eight.
He said for every question he got answered by the watching the videos, more would surface – and through interviews with his mother, father and therapist got the answers he needed.
“There’s a difference between surviving something and understanding something so you can overcome it,” Neulinger said. “My personal philosophy is if a memory is too painful to touch with your mind or your heart, it’s asking to be explored. This film became that exploration.”
He hopes the film helps to “transcend the gap between the mainstream audience and people affected by childhood sexual abuse.”
Neulinger works and lives in Montana, but has family connections to Michigan and is thrilled to be able to bring his film here.
Read more about him and his work in support of other survivors of childhood sexual abuse here.