Content Warning: This film (and review) contains details about sexual assault and child abuse.
Synopsis: On October 17, 1974, 12 year old Jan Broberg was kidnapped by her next door neighbor and parents’ best friend. Abducted In Plain Sight is a feature length documentary about the stranger-than-fiction, true story of the Brobergs; an Idaho family who fell under the spell of a sociopathic neighbour with designs on their twelve-year-old daughter.
Initially it seems like the titular act at the center of Abducted in Plain Sight is an open and shut case: 12 year old Jan Broberg is kidnapped by her pedophile neighbour, Robert “B” Berchtold, and goes missing for over a month. The documentary starts relatively innocuously by outlining the relationship between the Broberg family and their overly friendly neighbour, then dives into the kidnapping of Jan.
It is once the kidnapping occurs and the documentary flashes back to the years of odd events leading up to the crime that Abducted in Plain Sight moves out the realm of run-of-the-mill true crime and into something much, much more bizarre. The depth of “B”s manipulation of Mary Ann and Bob Broberg in order to gain access to their daughter is frankly astounding: it includes the sexual seduction of both parents and convincing them that his Church-advocated therapy for pedophilia involves sleeping in Jan’s bed. The 70s truly were a simpler time.
The events that follow don’t get any less shocking. The details of Jan’s abduction include sleeping pills disguised as allergy medication, an alien narrative about a “mission” that requires Jan and “B” to procreate and a child bride-situation in Mexico. Even when Jan is eventually recovered and returned to her parents, the madness continues: “B” continually finds ways to blackmail Bob and Mary Ann, to manipulate Jan into believing she is in love with him and to gain sexual access to her. And this is before she is abducted a second time.
As a film, Abducted in Plain Sight adopts many standard tropes of a conventional documentary. The film is primarily comprised of talking head interviews with the members of the Broberg family, with occasional appearances by the FBI agent in charge of Jan’s case and “B”s brother, Joe. Thankfully adult Jan is also included, which reassuringly eliminates any fear that the child at the center of the drama might come to an unhappy ending for those who are unfamiliar with the real life details. In addition to staged re-enactments of dramatic scenes (filmed like grainy home video to complement actual footage), director Skye Borgman pans across newspaper headlines, subtitles phone calls over still images and uses typewriter font on black background to keep track of important dates and events.
The visual aesthetic may be familiar, but the tale being told in Abducted in Plain Sight is anything but. It is a frankly batsh*t crazy story, with more outrageous twists and turns than anything in conventional fiction films. While there’s a slight celebratory vibe at the end of the film with the suggestion that the family has persevered and that Jan has (mostly) overcome her childhood trauma, the documentary serves as a shocking reminder of how naive and simplistic parents and the criminal justice system perceived child kidnapping and pedophilia back in the 70s when these events took place. Abducted in Plain Sight contains a multitude of bizarre and shocking developments that must be seen to be believed, but let us hope that they are only so astounding because it would be impossible for events such as these to occur in modern times.
Or perhaps that’s just my naivety showing…
Abducted in Plain Sight screens Friday, June 7 at 7pm with short Maybe If It Were A Nice Room. For tickets, visit the Toronto True Crime Film Festival website here.
For more information about the film, visit the official website here.
Is it just me OR are the Broberg parents the most clueless, careless, negligent and just plain stupid Mom and Dad on planet earth?!!
Wtf …those parents were really idiots or the pedhopile did work them really good but I cannot believe such thing happened.
That girl has been thru hell but now is an actress? Mother sleeps with abductor that kidnapped daughter twice and then writes a book? Father wanks off abductor. Lot going on.
Makes my head spin. How negligent can parents be and keep their kids?
I just watched this… Adult Protection Services needs to intervene and get those 3 women away from their nut case parents. Naive is one thing, but this is criminal. They wait to contact FBI, disregard their advice? Something is very, very wrong with these people.
The family was stupid the father and mother failed their daughter and literally gave her to the devil countless of times. The mother was especially stupid they weren’t naive like the movie kept stating they were stupid and just as sick in the head as the guy.
i can’t believe parents could be so naive really .what a pair of idiots should of taken all three girls off them,as if you’d let a man sleep next to you child .
The whole thing is just so bizarre. The parents should have been reported to CPS and their kids taken away. Totally clueless.
I’m seriously disappointed in humanity….that no one is commenting on the LDS/ Mormon cult that has a proven history of covering this shit up over and over and OVER again.
I grew up as a Jehovah’s Witness, a very similar cult. And while I was never kidnapped I was abused. Repeatedly. And asked for help, repeatedly. Everyone stayed silent. It was hushed up. And it happened to several of girls and boys around my age in that horrible place.
To see so many people just give these cults and other religions a FREE PASS over and over and OVER? It makes me want to vomit and scream. Why? Why excuse them? Why point the finger at EVERYONE ELSE but the MAIN CULPRIT. It’s asinine, it’s hypocritical, it’s evil.
Yes, the parents were brainwashed. And no, brainwashing doesnt at all
excuse what they did. But, for god damn ONCE I hope people could actually start seeing the REAL evil part of this.
These extremist religious cults.
And yes, they are cults.
But apparently, our society is able to accept *certain* cults if they happen to wear nice clothing and have seemingly *normal* jobs.
Guess who’s also had the wool pulled over their eyes just like this family? Everyone here who pretends like a cult has nothing to do with it.
As a parent you cannot trust everybody even family members nevertheless a family friend. in my opinion the parents were mental. for many reasons. common knowledge will tell you not to let a man sleep with your daughter in her bed. NOT normal! they were not brain washed or naive but felt guilt for have committing adultry with this man made them feel obligated to let him do what he wanted with jan. They knew when they started getting suspicious when we showed signs infatuation. As a parent this is one of your worst fears. i refuse to be blinded or blackmailed, no reason given to put my child in this kind of danger.
As a parent you cannot trust everybody even family members nevertheless a family friend. in my opinion the parents were mental. for many reasons. common knowledge will tell you not to let a man sleep with your daughter in her bed. NOT normal! they were not brain washed or naive but felt guilt for have committing adultery with this man. its as if it made them feel obligated to let him do what he wanted with Jan. They were aware when they started getting suspicious as he showed signs of infatuation.
Sadly, this is a world were evil prowls and as a parent this is one of your worst fears. i refuse to be blinded or blackmailed. There’s no reason to put my child in this kind of danger.
The 70’s were never ever ever that simple. Those parents are to blame. Hearing the daughters describe them really turned my stomach.