Projects exploring true-crime stories have become one of the fastest-growing genres on TV. But even among this crowded field, “Broken Harts,” a new documentary streaming on Discovery Plus, stands out. That’s not because the 88-minute film is an exceptional piece of filmmaking. Rather, it’s because the crime it recounts remains so horrifying, and the fate of the young victims is a tragic reminder of how society can fail its most vulnerable members.
“Broken Harts” tells the story of what led up to, and the awful events surrounding a deadly crash, when an SUV driven by Jennifer Hart plunged off a Northern California cliff, in March 2018. Jennifer Hart and her wife, Sarah Hart, died in the crash, as did the six children adopted by the couple, Markis, Hannah, Devonte, Abigail, Jeremiah, and Sierra (her legal name was Ciera).
Devonte, who was photographed hugging a Portland police officer in a 2014 image that became a social media sensation, has been declared dead, though his remains have not been recovered.
For those who recall the grim details of the case, there’s little in “Broken Harts” that will be surprising. The story remains an appalling example of children thrown into a system that, at every point, let them down, even as the children, and some concerned adults, tried to get help.
“Broken Harts” includes interviews with former friends of the Harts, journalists, social service professionals, a psychologist and others. They share memories of the supposedly progressive, happy family image that Jennifer Hart strove to promote on social media, sharing carefully curated photos of the white, same-sex couple and their adopted Black children, Devonte holding “Free Hugs” signs, all of them smiling as they attended rallies for Bernie Sanders and others, visited scenic areas, and more.
Behind those social media images were reports of the Hart children being abused, begging neighbors for food, and the couple facing very few consequences from any of the allegations or interactions with social service agencies.
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SOURCE: Oregon Live, Kristi Turnquist