UK / 2015 / English / Color / Blu-ray / 98 min
Director, Photography: Kim Longinotto
Editing: Ollie Huddleston
Sound: Nina Rice Music: Stuart Earl
Associate Producers: Will Spears, John Stack
Executive Producers: Dan Cogan, Geralyn White Dreyfous, Regina K. Scully
Producers: Teddy Leifer, Lisa Stevens
Production Companies: Rise Films, Green Acres Films, Vixen Films
World Sales: Dogwoof Global
Kim Longinotto has filmed strong women all over the world, and her new subject is Brenda Myers-Powell, from the Dreamcatcher Foundation in Chicago, an organization that supports victims of sexual assault. Brenda works devotedly, listening to troubled prostitutes and girls with traumatic memories of sexual violence, but she herself also has a past as a drug addict and a survivor of sexual assault. Though American society is callous towards those women who are seen as weak, Brenda’s sense of charity and passion confront this reality and give these women hope for the future.
[Director’s Statement] Brenda’s damaging life couldn’t be worse from being molested by family members from the age of four. When she made her life-changing decision to leave prostitution, Myers-Powell decided to focus all her efforts towards offering help and listening to the girls hanging out on the dark corners of Chicago.
Brenda is admirable for fighting her weaknesses with strength, her passion for life and change. Towards the end of her twenty-five-year long experience as a teenage and adult prostitute, she was on the streets recruiting girls for her pimp. I think this is the thing she feels really guilty about. But she helps us all to look back and accept our own pasts, to learn to live with ourselves and keep moving forward.
Every time Brenda meets a girl, she sees herself in them so she can support them without judgement. Her busy life working in the prison during the day and delivering her bold message as a survivor of drugs and sex abuse to young girls-at-risk in the city, is a genuine inspiration.
I hope that this film will resonate with everybody’s personal experience in some way. It’s not an “issue film,” it’s about all the secrets and the lies at the heart of most of our family lives. When you’re a child you’re very vulnerable and you believe that what you’re growing up with is the same for everybody else. You don’t realize that your life is different from any other child’s life. So in a way if you’re having a happy childhood, you don’t realize you’re having a happy childhood. And if you’re having a terrible childhood, you think most of it is your fault and if it isn’t your fault then you just accept it.
You don’t have a sense when you’re a child that one day you’ll be an adult and that you won’t be in this. It’s very strange the way a childhood becomes your whole world. I think we’ve all had many of these experiences of feeling vulnerable, of feeling small and not valued, of feeling that you can’t tell adults things because nobody is listening to you. It’s not just all the millions of us being abused as adults or as children and rape victims. It’s also about anyone who is dealing with childhood, about the things that you can’t say to your parents, the secrets that you have to keep. The way that you are very separate from other people, and the way the world doesn’t seem very easy to understand. Terry Pratchett said “I’ve spent my whole life feeling like I’m in a movie but I’ve missed the first reel.”
Internationally acclaimed documentarian Kim Longinotto is well known for making films about extraordinary women, particularly female victims of oppression or discrimination. Divorce Iranian Style (1998) was screened at YIDFF ’99 and Gaea Girls (2000) was screened at YIDFF 2001. Her films have won dozens of top awards at festivals worldwide, including the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize in Documentary at Sundance 2009 (Rough Aunties), a Peabody award (Sisters in Law), and a BAFTA (Pink Saris). Longinotto has directed many documentaries for broadcasters including BBC, HBO, PBS and Channel 4.