Filmmaker and Philadelphia native Jennifer Fox was back in town recently for interviews and an HBO screening of her latest work, The Tale, her autobiographical story of sexual abuse that took place when she was just 13 years old.
A reception was held for Fox at the Prince Theater, where her mother, Geraldine Dietz Fox, and hundreds of well-wishers gathered to see her film. HBO joined with the Greater Philadelphia Film Office, Mission Kids, The Childhood Residence Foundation, the Philadelphia Jewish Film Festival and Michael Coleman to sponsor the reception and the screening of the powerful film.
Fox’s first documentary, Beirut: The Last Home Movie, won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Excellence in Cinematography Award for documentaries at the 1988 Sundance Film Festival. Fox was in the film program at NYU at the time and left before completing her degree when the opportunity arose to make “Beirut,” which she wrote and directed in Lebanon during the civil war. Obviously, she had learned enough to win major prizes for her work.
“The Tale” is Fox’s third feature film, and it’s airing on HBO at 10 p.m. on Saturday, May 26. Fox sees the film as a vehicle to jump-start a whole new conversation about sexual abuse of children and the ways to prevent it. She deliberately uses her own name in the film, Jenny Fox, for the main character because she wants people to understand that this abuse really happened to her as a young girl at the hands of a 40-year-old coach whom she trusted. As the film depicts, Fox couldn’t even comprehend that what had happened to her was in fact abuse until many years later.
“Predators in society often do not look like predators,” said Fox’s mother, Gerry. So casting Jason Ritter, a handsome, wholesome-looking actor as the adult who seduced the young Jenny, should serve as a warning to parents and children alike. The adult Jenny in the film is played by Laura Dern.
Fox has moved on with her life, after thinking about the “relationship” for decades, but now being able to call it what it actually was: sexual abuse. She is a major filmmaker, and is married to another filmmaker, who did all the post-production for “The Tale.”
During the Q &A after the screening, Fox and an HBO representative told the audience that there will be program guides available for use in classrooms and in family sessions. Fox hopes that these materials will create a whole new vocabulary and mindset on this issue.
Photos from the reception at the Prince Theater by Bonnie Squires.