Witch Hunt (2008) - Rotten Tomatoes

Witch Hunt (2008)





Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Academy Award-winner Sean Penn serves as producer and narrator of this documentary detailing the disturbing spike in child-molestation allegations and sex-abuse cases in the small California community of Bakersfield during the 1980s, and the rash of convictions that quickly followed. It was during the Reagan era that the citizens of Bakersfield began to grow concerned about law-and-order issues, eventually electing a new district attorney to crack down on crime. What happened next, no one could have foreseen. Almost overnight, seemingly well-adjusted individuals and happy couples were charged with the heinous crime of child molestation. In the aftermath, the local jails became crowded with alleged child molesters who took every opportunity possible to proclaim their innocence. As the arrests ramped up and heavy sentences were handed down by the local judge, some frightened residents attempted to flee town. But their efforts were in vain, because anyone who fled was quickly tracked down and dragged back to Bakersfield to face their accusers - their own flesh and blood. When accusations of satanic rites began to emerge, the state attorney general launched a comprehensive investigation that proved many of the cases to be legally deficient. Later, it was revealed that many of the over-zealous, under-trained social workers in Bakersfield had coerced the children into making the accusations, prompting the release of numerous accused parents after years behind bars. Could their families every truly be normal again after such a long and drawn out trauma? That question and many more are addresses in this cautionary look at the very real dangers of mass hysteria.

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Sean Penn
as Narrator
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Critic Reviews for Witch Hunt

All Critics (2)

It's the sort of documentary that can reduce a grown man to tears. I know because it certainly had that effect on me.

March 9, 2009 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Witch Hunt

Witch Hunt is an important documentary and shows that innocent people can still be convicted of crimes. It's a deeply disturbing, horrifying, and sad documentary about some different people in Bakersfield, CA who were wrongly accused of child molestation. Many of the charges were that they sexually assaulted their own kids. Sean Penn narrates Witch Hunt and there's something about his voice that is so effective at evoking a lot of emotion out of these innocent people's stories. The good news is that these people have been freed, but the bad news is that they last years and years of their life, and those responsible for putting them their have just gone on living their same normal lives. They withheld information and coached the kids on what to say in court. Watching it will make you sick, especially when you listen to the piece of shit DA who's been re-elected 6 or 7 times. It's sad that stuff like this can occur. We sit in the modern world and say that the Salem Witch Trials were stupid and ridiculous, but in reality it's all still happening.

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

"Witch Hunt" is a heartbreaking documentary about the wrongful prosecution of people accused of child molestation in Bakersfield, California by an ambitious district attorney in the 1980's. Even after new evidence had been found to refute the original charges, it is not the end of their ordeals as damage coninutes to be seen decades later. However, there is no mention of the eerily similar McMartin Preschool case which would have lent more context to the documentary. This is worth mentioning for a couple of other reasons. First, when I watched an HBO movie called "Indictment: The McMartin Trial" starring James Woods, I believed going in that these charges were true, and watching this dramatization, I was blown away by the absurdity of it all. This comes from a presumption of guilt that exists in this country, no matter how idealistic we think we may be, especially when it concerns the most serious charges. Also, were the two cases connected or was there something in the drinking water in California at the time? So, the Bakersfield cases were not as isolated as stated in "Witch Hunt." In the end, a lot of the hysteria around incidents like these can be explained by what Bill Hicks termed Child Worship Syndrome which only shows how some people can get creepily emotional over children.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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