FRONTLINE: The Lost Children of Rockdale County (PBS)
Seizing on a little-noticed newspaper item noting an outbreak of syphilis among teenagers in the suburbs of Atlanta at the height of planning for the summer Olympics in 1996, the producers of FRONTLINE: The Lost Children of Rockdale County created a triumph of filmmaking as journalism. Producers Rachel Dretzin Goodman and Barak Goodman, under the leadership of senior executive producer David Fanning and executive producer Michael Sullivan, spent more than five months living and working in Conyers, Georgia-interviewing teenagers there and gaining a disturbing understanding of their lives. Producer Rachel Dretzin Goodman says, “We came to see the syphilis outbreak in Rockdale County as a kind of metaphor for a deeper malady afflicting so many adolescents today. Wherever we went, we met kids who were drifting—hungry for something to fill the void—left by too much time on their own and too little structure in their lives.” The producers interviewed epidemiologists with the Centers for Disease Control, officials with the Georgia Department of Public Health, a nurse at the community health center, the parents of the affected teens and most revealing: the drifting teens themselves. The Lost Children of Rockdale County presents a tableau of increasing alienation and loneliness that leads to binge drinking, drug abuse, unsafe and dangerous sexual activity and violence. The airing of The Lost Children of Rockdale County sounded an alarm, not only in Conyers and Atlanta, but the nation as a whole. For this striking FRONTLINE portrait of teenagers adrift and at risk, a Peabody Award is presented to The Lost Children of Rockdale County.
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