The subject of sex offenders is pretty heavy stuff and it has a way of provoking people to take action. But what’s really interesting is the subject of what happens once a sex offender has served his (or occasionally her) time and is released back into society.

No Entry No Exit explores this topic by observing what happens when convicted rapist Karl D. moves in with his brother’s family in their rural German town. It hits pretty hard in the beginning by explaining just what Karl D. went to jail for. A horrific crime that would be near impossible to forgive (he denies committing the crime). But family is family so Karl’s brother, Helmut, takes him in to live with himself, his wife and his young son (they believe his innocence). The villagers find this understandably upsetting and organize daily protests to let their feelings be known. They’re convinced he will reoffend and they want him gone.  This is where things get interesting.

As Helmut tries to keep his family intact in the midst of the controversy (the authorities even try to take his son away), things outside in the protests begin to fall apart. In the beginning everyone is in agreement – Karl D. should be sent out of our town and back to prison – but as with any group dynamic, differing opinions slowly start to form and the protesters start to turn on each other.

The filmmakers spend time in the homes of all the central characters in the film as well as out in the protests. They get to know all of the key figures and some of the most moving segments involve protesters sharing painful stories of their own pasts and their reasons for taking part in the demos. There’s a lot of sadness in this movie and it doesn’t always come from where you’d expect.

The most mysterious character is Karl himself – an intentional move by the filmmakers since the story isn’t really about him.  He shows virtually no emotion when it comes to the hell his family is going through and he speaks of the crimes he’s been accused of in a very nonchalant way. He denies his guilt and by watching the movie you have no idea if he’s telling the truth or not. He’s almost a non-figure.

This first feature from co-directors Mareille Klein and Julie Kreuzer forces you to renegotiate where you stand as you watch it. It starts off as one thing, and then becomes another, and another still. It’s full of ethical complexities that prove over and over again that things aren’t always as simple as we want them to be – even when it comes to vicious sex offenders. It says a lot about the dangers of mob mentality and how we take experiences from own lives and use our anger to punish strangers.

Click here for more from HotDocs 2011


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