The parents of two Wisconsin girls accused of stabbing their friend 19 times in tribute to the fictional Internet character “Slenderman” spoke to a documentary filmmaker for a film premiering this evening at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin, Texas.
“It’s human nature to feel backed into a corner and protect your children at all cost and protect their image,” says director Irene Brodsky about the parents of the suspects. “I think what they did was paint a very complex and honest picture of what was going on in their [daughters’] lives.”
Nearly two years ago in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, both 12 at the time, were arrested and charged as adults with first-degree intentional homicide. If convicted, they each face up to 60 years in prison.
They’re accused of stabbing Payton Leutner, then 12, who managed to crawl to a bike path where a cyclist found her alive. When police found the suspects six miles away from the crime scene, the girls told police they were on their way to see Slenderman, a fictional, faceless Internet character who, according to the story, lives in a mansion in a national park.
The film’s director had been working on developing a film for HBO about the human brain and the digital age. As soon as she heard about the stabbing incident, she headed to Wisconsin. In time, Brodsky gained the trust of the girls’ parents.
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“In no way is this a whodunit. It’s a whydunit. It’s a howdunit. How could this have happened? And the answers are very complex,” Brodsky says.
“The film goes into the minds of the perpetrators, but I also think it goes into the mind of us as a society . Slenderman appeals to us for many reasons. The facelessness of him means he can be whatever we need him to be. He’s not just a man that preys on children. Some children see him as a guardian angel. Some kids see him as a protector. These girls, they really believed in his power.”
The film will be shown three times through next Wednesday at SXSW. Later in the year, HBO plans to air the documentary. For now, Brodsky hopes the public will see the courage it took for the suspects’ parents to sit down for an interview and talk about their daughters.
“It was a lesson in bravery that they even agreed to be a part of this film because the world really was hating them and their daughters,” Brodsky says. “I think what I’ve learned is that there’s only so much we can do as parents to derail these horrifying incidents. I truly believe they did not see any of this coming.”