Almost three years ago, ahead of a bankruptcy court deadline, more than 82,000 people came forward with sexual abuse claims against the Boy Scouts of America. The mostly male survivors were of all ages and came from every state. Some of them had kept mum for decades.
“Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America,” directed by Brian Knappenberger and streaming on Netflix, is essentially a walk-through of the monumental case. A solid chunk of its running time is spent with Michael Johnson, a former director at the Boy Scouts who has since become an outspoken critic of its youth protection practices. As the film tracks the organization’s history of abuse and cover-ups, Johnson recounts hitting brick walls during his efforts to reform the system.
News-based passages remind viewers about the organization’s wholesome image, as well as its links to the Catholic and Mormon Churches. Bland archival footage supports the history lesson, and the film pans across enough headlines to populate a Sunday paper.
Knappenberger does, thankfully, make space for survivors to share their own accounts, and their vulnerability lends authority to an otherwise anonymous film. At one point, a middle-aged man laments not having the chance to tell his late mother about the abuse he endured as a child. These are heart-wrenching moments. Unfortunately, the film fails to build on them, leaving the culture of shame and stigma that muzzled these men to hover in the air, unexplored.
Scouts Honor: The Secret Files of the Boy Scouts of America
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes. Watch on Netflix.