Mirta Puhlovski | Metar60 and Slavica film d.o.o
A few women, out of thousands raped during the war share their life stories as they are going through unconventional recovery and strengthening treatments, restoring their self-esteem and well-being.
With financial support of only a handful of institutions, 23 years after the war for independence of Croatia, women who were forced into sexual slavery by enemy soldiers are going through unconventional recovery and strengthening treatments, restoring their self-esteem and well-being. They call themselves the Phoenix group. The film follows a couple of women raped in the Homeland War, returning their dignity and trust, lost 28 years ago during the war, through treatments at the Women's Association in the Homeland War. The Association organized a specially designed program named “I Am Much More Than My Trauma”, just for this type of trauma. We follow a group of 8 women during intensive 2 year treatments, as they share their personal stories of deeply distressing and disturbing experiences which have shattered their previously happy lives.
We follow them every month, during the 3 day therapy sessions, but also in their homes, villages and cities where they live, often in the vicinity to their abusers, their former neighbors and friends who almost three decades ago committed these atrocities. The slowness of the justice system, the agonizing process of fact-finding in legal proceedings, the inadequate support provided by the state – consisting of occasional visits to oversubscribed and disinterested doctors or psychiatrists, and eventual stuffing with tranquilizers – they have pushed these women to the edge of their physical and mental strength, ruined their marriages, led them to internal isolation and illness (all participants occasionally miss their therapy sessions due to various surgeries and medical procedures).
Determined to change and save their own lives, and the lives of their children who have also been severely traumatized by these events, the women have turned to new approaches of therapeutic methods which include the Systemic Constellation Method, NLP, family systems therapy, osteopathy and the Feldenkrais Method. All four methods are focused on the solution, not the cause. The reconstruction of significant events from personal, physical and family history is focused on the present and takes place in group as well as individual sessions. Women who are working on overcoming their problems randomly select other participants in the workshop to “represent” their family members or even themselves. Through “role play” the participants are able to perceive and articulate their feelings while maintaining an emotional distance which enables them true insight. Pain, conflict and tension finally give way to space and freedom that they need to in order to change their situation.
In order not to intrude on the participants’ circle of trust, the film crew have used minimal gear and no lighting. The filming process becomes part of the therapy and the participants literally take the cameras in their own hands as they become empowered by finally finding a voice and means of expression in getting their stories heard and seen. The focus of the film is on the protagonists’ emotional journeys on the path to healing, rather than the detailed accounts of their traumas or the methods used by the program facilitators.
Exploring their own notion of tolerance, their inner qualities, meeting with their soul, connecting with the 4aspects of ‘self’ (spiritual, physical, mental, emotional),becoming aware of the physical symptoms of pain, shame and peace are all parts of an intense process that gives them the ability to make the first step towards healing. Releasing repressed emotions helps them break the code of silence marked by guilt and shame.
While the conversations, therapy sessions and personal relations are shown as direct cinema footage, the historical context of the film, memories and changes in emotional states of the protagonists will partly be illustrated using animation.
Total Budget €164.000
Confirmed budget €81.000
Croatian AV Centre
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