Raw Deal: A Question of Consent

on January 20, 2001 by Chris Wiegand
   Courting controversy from festival to festival, Billy Corben's documentary debut is an investigation of an alleged rape at a Florida frat house in 1999. An unusual case to say the least--mainly because many of that same evening's events were captured on not only one but two separate video cameras--it caused a massive media feeding frenzy at the time, so it is perhaps unsurprising that the video material has ended up being featured in a full-length documentary.

   Stripper and mother Lisa Gier King and another girl were hired to perform at a party held at a frat house at the campus of the University of Florida. King stayed the night with the students, emerging the next morning saying that she had been raped by one of those present, Michael Yahraus. Police subsequently seized the footage shot at the house that night by some of revelers, then--after viewing the material--actually arrested King herself, claiming that she had filed a false report, as the footage showed "clearly willing and consensual sex." After considerable uproar from different quarters, State Attorney Rod Smith made the tape available for public viewing, allowing people to make up their own mind about what had happened. This meant the material could be "rented" by anyone curious enough to check it out and, inevitably enough, it was soon duplicated, passing hands and even available on the Internet.

   And now here it is, available to see within a documentary. To what end? Corben attempts to present a balanced view of the events, intercutting conflicting perspectives from interviewees, including King herself and frat member Tony Marzullo. Offering more questions than answers, "Raw Deal" asks what kind of proof the video constitutes. Since so much of the film consists of the footage shot that evening--much of it extremely explicit and disturbing--this is a difficult film to watch and near impossible to rate.    Starring Lisa Gier King and Tony Marzullo. Directed by Billy Corben. Produced by Alfred Spellman and Billy Corben. An Artisan release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 98 min.

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