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Louis Theroux’s new 'very unsettling' documentary has left viewers saying it's ‘guaranteed to blow your mind’

Louis Theroux’s new 'very unsettling' documentary has left viewers saying it's ‘guaranteed to blow your mind’

The brand new true crime documentary explores several serious subjects such as race, sex and disability

A brand new documentary from Louis Theroux has hit screens, and it has wowed viewers.

Released on 14 June, the true crime documentary has caused quite the uproar from Netflix viewers, sparking debates all over social media.

Though produced by Theroux alongside Arron Fellows, the shocking film was directed by Nick August-Perna, documenting the relationship between a professor and a disabled student, and the discussion of consensual sexual relationships.

The documentarian is back with another hit. (Joseph Okpako/WireImage/Getty)
The documentarian is back with another hit. (Joseph Okpako/WireImage/Getty)

The documentary explores themes of sex, disability, power dynamics and race through the relationship between white professor Anna Stubblefield and black student Derrick Johnson, who is non-verbal due to having cerebral palsy.

It documents the true story of the pair, including the trial around the situation in 2015 and viewers are already gripped by the 'unsettling' film.

Stubblefield was a married ethics professor at the Rutgers University-Newark in New Jersey at the time, and met Johnson in 2009 through his brother, John.

John Johnson notified her of his brother's condition, and she offered to help the then 28-year-old with his communication skills.

He learned to use a keyboard with an LED screen to type soon after, and even started to take a university class with the professor's help.

But over the course of their meetings, Stubblefield claims that they fell in love and had a consensual sexual relationship, despite Johnson's mother saying that her son didn't have the capacity to engage in physical or emotional intimacy.

She pointed out that the keyboard he used to communicate couldn't be operated without her manipulating his hands.

The doc is called Tell Them You Love Me, and you can view the trailer here:

Theroux, who revealed that he came across the story in an article around 10 years ago to Tudum, acknowledged that the big social questions were brought up by the story.

Co-producer Fellows highlighted: “From the beginning, it was made clear that, to tell this story, we had to present all angles and involve all those who were part of it, - the film is all the more powerful because of that.”

As a result, interviews with Stubblefield, Daisy Johnson (Derrick Johnson's mother), John Johnson, facilitated communication advocate Rosemary Crossley, and Dr. Howard Shane, director of Boston Children’s Center for Communication Enhancement are included in the final cut.

Derrick Johnson communicated through facilitated communication, which is also known as assisted/supported typing - a scientifically discredited method that can be used to assist people with communication disabilities.

It requires a facilitator physically supporting the disabled person to type on a keyboard or point to letters or pictures to help them communicate.

The American Speech-Hearing Association have denied any evidence of the method's validity, suggesting that messages typed is strongly manipulated by the facilitator.

Director August-Perna said it was a 'complex film' with 'nuanced ideas', summing it up as people 'who became enmeshed in a tragedy together.'

Stubblefield is adamant that she is innocent. (Netflix)
Stubblefield is adamant that she is innocent. (Netflix)

Stubblefield was eventually taken to court in 2015, where she was found guilty on two counts of first degree aggravated sexual assault, being sentenced to 12 years in prison.

However, the ex-professor's appeal was granted and she had her conviction revoked in 2017 due to a technicality.

The court in the initial trial dismissed a testimony related to facilitated communication, and Stubblefield accepted a plea deal, so she got a lesser charge and only served two years behind bars.

Whether the method of facilitated communication is to blame for what happened, or the professor herself, Theroux thinks it's more complex that that.

“I think the other culprit is the vanity of presuming we know what is best for someone,” he explains.

“Disabled people who are nonverbal or who struggle to speak [are] by definition more vulnerable to misinterpretation, which raises the stakes and makes it all potentially catastrophic,” he concludes.

Tell Them You Love Me is available to stream on Netflix now.

Featured Image Credit: Eamonn M. McCormack/Getty Images / Youtube/ReelAbilities Film Festival: New York

Topics: Louis Theroux, Netflix, True Crime, Sex and Relationships, Film