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All roads lead to Shelton

To answer Group A's blog question, the road in Searching for Angela Shelton serves as the path leading Shelton to her confrontation with her father, and the way she uses the film to talk about her own story in conjunction with the other Angela Sheltons makes it seem to the audience that all roads lead to Charleston and to Shelton's father. At the beginning of the film, Shelton says that she wants to represent the women of America by meeting other women with her name and telling their stories. However, from her first meeting with another Angela Shelton, it seems that her primary interest is not in hearing about others' lives and/or misfortunes, but in telling her own story to whoever will listen, which made it hard to see the film as more than a story about Shelton's personal journey, rather than the larger problem of violence against women--not that Shelton's personal journey is less important, but if she had billed the film that way from the beginning, it would have been easier to accept the marginalizing of the other women's stories.

I don't think Shelton used her camera power responsibly in this film. She claimed to be presenting a representation of American women--and she did show the Angela Sheltons in their milieus, with their families and at work, but she also intercut still photos of signs and scenes along the road, often as rhetorical devices to influence the way the audience viewed a certain scene. The most prominent example was in the sign that read "It's still wrong even if you don't get caught," where Shelton focused on the word "wrong" as her father denied his past abuse. Certainly it was abominable that he molested her and her stepsiblings, and that he lied about it, but in this and other cases, Shelton clearly tries to manipulate the way we, the audience, view what she is showing us, rather than letting us come to our own conclusions about the material (although in the case of Shelton's father, we would likely come to the same conclusion Shelton does). Were I in Shelton's place, I would have focused more on the other Angela Sheltons, told their stories in more detail, and spent more time on each woman individually, rather than cutting quickly from story to story. I would also have held back on revealing most of Shelton's personal story until she reached Charleston. What I found most unappealing about this film was that Shelton interrupted the other women to recount her own story, cutting them off in such a way that made it seem as though she was fishing for sympathy. Had she focused more on the other women, then told her entire story in Charleston, I think her individual story would have been a more powerful revelation, and perhaps the audience would not have noticed that she skimmed over some of the other women's stories.