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Clear Lines Festival: Brave Miss World & The Unspeakable Crime: Rape

Friday 7 August 2015, by Ryan Ormonde

Earlier this month, filmmaker and academic Winnie M. Li and psychologist Dr. Nina Burrows presented Clear Lines: ‘the first ever festival dedicated to talking about sexual assault and consent through the arts and discussion’. This programme included a double bill of films (Brave Miss World and The Unspeakable Crime: Rape) in which rape survivors tell their stories. If we understand these two films as valuable testimonies and educational resources it is useful to consider their two very different approaches to storytelling.

It begins with who you choose to film. As the title suggests, Brave Miss World portrays an iridescent and supremely devout Israeli beauty queen seemingly unaware that all that ‘world peace’ talk is just stuff you say to nab the crown. As I watched Linor Abargil hugging and inspiring rape survivors all over the world while bringing the man who raped her to justice I had to remind myself that this wasn’t an Angelina Jolie movie.
When Blue Ryan and Sarah Hardy began filming The Unspeakable Crime: Rape at St Mary’s Referral Centre in Manchester they had no idea which of the hundreds of people who walked through the doors would end up being the protagonists of their film. The two stories that emerged work brilliantly to challenge negative perceptions of rape survivors because on paper they are manna from heaven to the ‘she had it coming’ brigade: Juliet, paralytic in an alleyway (well it was New Year’s Eve) and Kelly, a sex worker and heroin addict are superficially about as far away from Brave Miss World as you can get.

Both films brought me to tears, but the strength of this second, rather British approach is in the power of the ordinary. Kelly’s honesty and determination helps her kick her habit into touch and, as Juliet ambivalently remarks, she has come out the other side of her ordeal ‘extraordinary’. Renewed by this realisation, we watch the most heartening scene in either film: nearly a year on from her rape, Juliet picks up a sleek pair of shoes from a bemused police officer. Collected as evidence, they have been archived in separate plastic cases. The ordinary-extraordinary Juliet is thrilled to be reunited: after all, ‘it wasn’t my shoes that raped me’.

Brave Miss World, Dir. Cecilia Peck, 2013 More info @ http://www.bravemissworld.com/
The Unspeakable Crime: Rape, Dir. Blue Ryan, Sarah Hardy, 2013 More info @ http://www.goldstarproductions.tv/films/the-unspeakable-crime-rape/

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