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My review of “Erasing Hate” From the Heartland Film Festival

October 28, 2012

My first film screening for the Heartland Film Festival was a documentary called “Erasing Hate.” The film centered around a man named Bryon, who escaped the brutal Aryan Nation movement. After contacting the Southern Law Poverty Center, a center dedicated to erasing the Aryan movement, Jon had the gracious opportunity to have his tattoos removed, specifically from his face and hands.

The beginning of the documentary explained how Bryon currently struggles to find a job because of the way he looks. This was very ironic to me considering the movement he found himself so tied into was directly related to caring and mistreating people simply because of the way he looked. At first, he showed reluctance to have them removed, only because they remind him of where he’s been and how he chooses never to return.

He even met his wife at an Aryan event.

The most surprising thing about his wife was how supportive, real, and completely unlike my stereotypical thoughts of a white Aryan woman would be. She loved her children and was a caring wife. The love she exhibited for her husband throughout the film was devastatingly pure.

That being said, how could a mother take her children to Aryan events? How could a loving, doting mother fall into such a horrible situation? I wondered this while they talked about family and their beliefs, how they were raised and how they struggled to find a way out after coming to the real, honest and correct thought that they were in the wrong crowd. How I’ve judged others in those same situations who may have been trying to also find their way out. They only wanted support and I knew the struggle was real when they reached out to the One People’s Project whose leader is a black man.

When Bryon began his treatments at Vanderbilt University, he was treated with respect as a person. The doctor told him to expect only 7-8 treatments, and the worst case scenario could more a year and a half of treatments. Unfortunately, Jon didn’t experience the former, and endured over 25 treatments to remove the tattoos from his face and hands.

The pain he experienced through the entire process was very, very hard to watch. But it had a point that I don’t think could have been made any other way. To doubt this man’s transformation after suffering what he called “having a torch to my face” day after day is impossible. The swelling and pain he experiences after he leaves the offices and travels home is also excruciating to watch. This man chose a year and half of horrifying pain. So painful in fact, that after the first treatment, the doctor was forced to put him under general anesthesia because Jon couldn’t take the pain during the process.

It was definitely a worthwhile film, and left me in tears. Definitely a truly moving picture!  See Bryon’s transformation here.

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