A recent hit in Korea, "Silenced" ("Dogani") is based on a true story in which administrators at a school for deaf children received extremely light penalties for sexually abusing their young charges.
The problem is that director Hwang Dong-Hyuk goes to such wretched lengths to sensationalize the depictions of the crimes — lingering on the testimony of the children as they describe what was done to them with parallel reenactments — that "Silenced" is not a cautionary wake-up call but a sadistic, unsavory document. It's a child-abuse drama with the look and feel of a horror film.
"Silenced" has become a fulcrum in South Korea for a broader conversation about sexual abuse and its victims, yet the film is so brutal and demoralizing that it does a disservice to the very issue on which it is attempting to shine a cleansing spotlight.
"Silenced." No MPAA rating. In Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 5 minutes. At CGV Cinema and Century 20 Huntington Beach.