The Reel Review
In the wake of her staggering 2017 Netflix crime docuseries Abducted in Plain Sight, about the long-term sexual abuse and kidnapping – not once, but twice – of Jan Broberg by her parents’ friend and neighbor Robert Berchtold, documentary film director Skye Borgman has brought us yet another horrifying, almost unfathomable crime mystery.
The saga starts with the 1990 hit-and-run death of a 20-year-old woman in Oklahoma City. As questions arise about her unusual injuries, and then her identity itself, the story unfolds into an almost unbelievable tale of child sexual abuse, faked identities, kidnappings, murders, arson and sex trafficking. Nothing is what it seems. By the end of this film, you will be reeling at the magnitude of her so-called father’s stomach-churning depravity.
The film has all the grainy archival footage, foreboding music and interviews typical of crime documentaries, but where Borgman differs is in resisting the urge to focus on the hideous evildoer, instead focusing on his silently suffering victim, whom apparently had received a full scholarship to study aerospace engineering at Georgia Tech before being whisked away to a life of sex trafficking. So much of Girl in the Picture is horrifying that at times it is very hard to process. But incredibly, it manages to end on an optimistic note, achieving the rare goal of finally giving its victim – in death – both her identity and her humanity.
• The fate and identity of Suzanne Sevakis’ third child mentioned in the film (besides Megan Dufresne and Michael Hughes) remains a mystery.
• Documentary film director Skye Borgman is also a professor at the University of Southern California.
• If you think you have seen a missing child, contact the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-THE-LOST (1-800-843-5678) or www.missingkids.org