‘Untouchable’ Questions the Unspeakable Truth

Sidney Butler
Directed by David Feige, "Untouchable" is a documentary that examines sex offender registry laws.

“Untouchable” is the kind of movie that stays with you long after the credits roll and the lights come on in the theater. It’s a documentary that makes each audience member reevaluate his or her moral compass and, like a stereotypical hero on a quest, makes one question the definitions of good and evil. Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Untouchable” chronicles the enforcement of strict sex offender laws and the men and women behind and against them. Through a diversified lens, director David Feige constructs a balanced story of a controversial topic.

The film documents top Florida lobbyist Ron Book who, after uncovering that his long time nanny sexually abused his daughter Lauren, used his political prowess to pass some of the harshest sexual offender laws in the country. The impact of these laws is far more widespread than one would think, causing thousands of criminals to forcibly abide by them.

“Untouchable” is a truly remarkable example of three-dimensional storytelling, explaining the backstory of each subject and how Book’s laws affected their lives. Shawna Baldwin is a mother of two and has been a sexual offender for over 15 years. She lives her day-to-day life under the deep dark shadow of her past, having earned her title as “sexual offender” by having consensual sex with an underage boy. At the time, Shawna was younger and lived with her neighbor, the mother of the teenager, and even though the sex was consensual, she was branded as a tier three sexual offender, the worst possible for the offense.

Baldwin is one of many subjects Feige chooses to follow over the course of two years. The other sexual offenders he portrays are surprisingly apologetic in their crimes, and suffer with who they are each day. As a viewer, we see Book put into law that sexual offenders are forbidden from living within 2,500 feet of a school. It’s illegal to even reside in Miami Beach at all if you’re a convicted sex offender.

Public citizens are immediately thankful for these laws, knowing every child is made safe because of them. Yet Feige digs deeper into the other perspective and, instead of showcasing the public’s views of this law, we see how the sex offenders themselves are dealing with being ostracized.

Many offenders sleep under bridges and form entire communities under Miami’s Julia Tuttle Causeway that runs through Miami. They sleep in tents, living outside in conditions not fit for anyone. Feige gives humanity to these criminals and tries to make us see how the punishment may be too severe. These criminals may get jail time, but once they are released they carry the title of sex offender to the grave, like a modern scarlet letter their profile can be found in public databases and the neighborhood must be legally notified of their presence.

“Untouchable” doesn’t try to change its audience’s perception of sexual assault or force them to think lightly of sex offenders, but it does succeed in opening up the conversation for civilians and government alike to discuss the strict laws surrounding this taboo subject. It’s a model example, a documentary that makes viewers uncomfortable, while uncovering how deeply broken the world really is from both sides of the coin.

“Untouchable” is screening as part of the 2016 Tribeca Film Film Festival.

Email Sidney Butler at [email protected]

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3 COMMENTS

  1. I was in this film briefly, protesting the Book family. This film didn’t do anything to challenge those monsters. The Books are responsible for forcing hundreds of Miami’s registered citizens into homelessness. It is disgusting to see clips of Ron Book attending fancy dinners, eating steak tartare and getting his shoes shined knowing his policies force hundreds of registered citizens to live by the railroad tracks behind a warehouse.

    The film fails to discuss Ron Book’s plea of no contest to a theft charge in the 1980s and a guilty plea for illegal campaign contributions in the 1990s. Ron Book was recently under FBI investigation. Lauren Book is literally BUYING a senate seat, yet she can’t even answer her own questions during a post-screening Q & A. Lauren is inept and nothing but a puppet for daddy Ron and his political cronies.

    It is here where Feige fumbled the ball worse than Cam Newton in the Super Bowl. In order to guarantee he wouldn’t get sued by the Books or have them pull their support of the film, Feige had to cater to Ron & Lauren. Thus, instead of any direct challenge to the Book family, Feige’s film dances the issue around them. The Books are never grilled about anything in the film. Feige minimized my rally in the film out of concerns that our message was “too harsh.” He asked me to be nice to Lauren Book because she is “skittish.” I guess it was because Daddy wasn’t there to do the talking for her.

    Ultimately, this movie was an utter disappointment. The Books get away again like the bad guys from a Saturday Morning cartoon to return and continue their wicked ways.

  2. I am so glad to see someone giving this film some attention. It is truly a testament to what documentary film-making should be, and should do. I call it The Film You Most Don’t Want to Watch But Absolutely Must See. Feige succeeded at shattering the mass of misinformation and misconception around this confounding and taboo subject and then intricately examining all the shards. The film has an indisputable logic to it, and a kind of relentless veracity that threads through the various emotions and personalities that are presented. I had a chance to interview the director and the editor, and they speak with additional insight and intelligence. To read my interview, go to: http://helenhighly.com/549-2/

    To commenter Derek from OnceFallen: I don’t doubt that what you say about The Book family is true. But the Books *are* revealed in this film to be something very different than they originally appear. Feige handles their story, and others, with amazing sensitivity, while carefully and slowly building his case that essentially everything we think we know about this subject is FALSE. If you watch it all the way through, the film packs a powerful punch. But it’s smart and meticulous — not a polemic.

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