(Boss Lindquist; Sweden; 2009)
As with many engrossing biographical documentaries, this film introduces a not-so-familiar name and reveals an individual with such an unusual story that by the film's end you're guaranteed not to forget the name in a hurry. Carleton Gajdusek earned a Nobel prize for his radical research into the cause of kuru, a highly infectious neurological disorder that was decimating the population of New Guinea, but it seemed his interest in New Guinea extended beyond solving the riddle of this disease. He also became fascinated with the customs of this society, in the uninhibited displays of homosexuality and man-boy relations, and, after taking many boys from New Guinea and raising them in the US, he is convicted in the US of sexually abusing one of his foster children. What is fascinating is that the object of this biographical scrutiny allows himself to be interviewed, and it is the locking of horns between the director and Mr Gajdusek that comprise the strongest scenes in this film. It is not just his lack of guilt for his behaviour that marks the territory of this film as unusual, or his belief that his science and his sexuality cannot be separated from each other. What assists in pushing a controversial subject into murky grey waters is the support he receives from the scientific community, who speak so well of him in terms of science but are almost at a loss as to what to say in regards to his pedophilia.
An unsettling film – you cannot help but admire his achievements and even his apparently sincere sentiments in looking after 57 children from around the world, but the images of Gajdusek nearly foaming at the mouth and expressing his outrage at a world that does not understand his point of view seem to linger longer in the mind than his genius.