Pervert Park (2014)
I wonder if empathy almost doesn't count if it comes easily. Like, take kids with cancer, only a monster could fail to empathize with them, because it is impossible to find other responses. An adult cancer victim we might blame for smoking or for tanning or other risky life choices. It is much more relevant as a test of empathy to find the humanity within those who you revile or for whom you might find no justification. In our society, the hardest test of empathy might be related to sex offenders.
Pervert Park is an act of empathy, concentrating on a trailer park in Florida that houses registered sex offenders. Through recording interviews as well as group counseling sessions, it acquaints us with a handful of the park's residents, providing the context for their violation. Some of them are the more obvious victims of the system. We don't get any of the 18 year old who had a 15 year old girlfriend narrative, but there is one individual who was caught by the "To Catch A Predator" system when it seems clear he had no intent to be a predator and was pressured into the dialogue by the officers. If this sting tactic has actually prevented any abuse, I would be a little surprised. We get those whose own offense was part of a cycle, as they were victimized as children. Some seem closer to the pure evil that the entire population is labeled with.
If the documentary ultimately attempts to humanize this group so that we might treat them like humans in society, what it doesn't particularly do is provide the context of how they have been dehumanized. There are at best smatterings of job discrimination or burdensome costs related to monitoring, but even the question as simple as, why are all these people congregated in this one area isn't answered. I'm not sure if this park is more an intentional effort for a supportive community or the result of draconian laws that prohibit sex offenders from living near schools, parks, etc. that can often push offenders into homeless camps under freeways and other isolating policies. In any event, it feels like only fighting half the battle to attempt to humanize the population without pointing to what the broader public might reconsider now that we see them as human.