The Girl Who Cannot Speak follows five women's true stories of sexual abuse. Each woman has been involved with the Lenox Hill Women's Shelter in New York City. As the project moves forward we meet Charlotte, a 13 year old girl who's story is depicted through visual images. She never speaks.
Interview with Director Stefano Da Frè
Congratulations! Why did you make your film? Why now?
Thank you kindly. First, I'd like to start by saying how humbling it is to be featured on "We Are Moving Stories." Laura Pellegrini & I have been following the diversity of films here. And we are touched to be among this wonderful community of artists.
The concept of "The Girl Who Cannot Speak" was one Laura & I were developing for the past three years. I personally worked in a treatment center for trauma back in Canada when I was in my 20's. And Laura was volunteering at at homeless shelter on West 4th street in her early days in NYC. We both realized something in common: we met seemingly normal people who were in fact heroic.
The most heartbreaking themes for both Laura & I were stories of sexual abuse. We noticed the courage it took to share that part of yourself that is both brutal and beautiful - something that would make for an excellent documentary. And so "The Girl Who Cannot Speak" was born.
How has #metoo and #timesup influenced your approach - both in the filmmaking and reception?
#metoo and #timesup has been a great inspiration to us. However, it felt just as relevant earlier three years ago as it did by the time the #metoo movement began to emerge in the public domain. In that sense, the documentary was always a personal creation. Now, the two movements compliment how vital it is to create a true documentary in this social climate.
The reception has been amazing. Victims of all ages, races, and genders come up to Laura & I to hug us, cry, and sometimes sit together in silence.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
The heart of cinema is meant to connect: you & I are together. Respectively, the soul of a documentary is meant to engage & to challenge. I would recommend watching this film. Yes - it’s difficult. However it should also compel one to look deeper within oneself to ask:
What is my own pain? Why is there shame if I share it? How can I allow myself to heal? These questions will lead to a compassionate experience watching the documentary.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
Each woman’s story is very specific. Each woman has a different life story - a different emotional life. However, the shame of their own abuse is something shared, and paradoxically, ultimately very lonely. They bear witness to their own traumas for the rest of their lives. Even if it is shared.
From this perspective, Laura & I have found each story to be very specific. That’s the personal weight of the narrative. But it all functions beautifully in tandem with universal themes.
We all have scars - things we’re ashamed of, experiences that we’d rather not talk about. Because the reality is, sometimes it’s easier to live with pain than to let it go. That’s a very human thing; an achingly human condition.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
With this piece, there was no script - just a tapestry of true stories. Initially, we were only going to feature four women. Then we decided to integrate the young adolescent girl to develop this theme of lost innocence. As the French say "L'innocence perdu."
All the stories focus on a specific period in each woman and girl’s life that happens in her childhood. What we love, from an artistic sense, is that we were able to still incorporate some stylist elements from filmmakers Laura & I deeply admire like Antonioni and Godard - their use of color and shapes in composition. We were able to marry that sensibility with documentary filmmaking.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
Everyone, men and women alike, have responded very strongly to the film. There have been a few people who have felt encouraged to open up to me about their experiences with violence and abuse, after having been silenced for so long. Some have confessed to me they watched it with great difficulty, and others have told me they weren’t ready to watch it. They were too raw. The feedback has been mind-blowing!
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
A woman told me that her abusive childhood severely compromised her ability to be intimate with men. Men she loved. These men had to pay the debts of that trauma from a previous assaulter.
It struck me how deep the burden can run, not just on the individual, but the person he or she is with. How abuse has a ripple effect. It impacts us all, without ever being aware of it- this is the most important thing to understand!
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
We Are Moving Stories is a wonderful platform for films about people who struggle with inner conflict and desires.
The messiness of being human. “The Girl Who Cannot Speak” doesn’t bypass the hardship in admitting truths. It patiently and lovingly allows each woman to speak her truth and, hopefully, find some healing from that experience. I can only hope it helps people who watch the film to do the same.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
All of those components we need! We make films that are meant to be seen, not collecting dust in a library. These resources will circulate “The Girl Who Cannot Speak” onto the platforms it deserves. For victims everywhere. Our hope is that it is part of the fabric of our beautiful social movement. A piece of our place in time.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to hav
I want everyone to know that they're not alone.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Laura & I always begin with: "what's your name? where did you grow up? do you have something you'd like to share?" It's deceptively simple, but its honest & eventually we always open up to one another.
Would you like to add anything else?
I want to thank everyone, heart and soul, who worked on and supported this project. It means the world to us.
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are still touring the festival circuit with “Tu Me Manques," most recently in Ireland at the Silk Road International Film Festival. Laura & I were humbled to win Best Live Action Short at the Festival.
March and April will be packed with two other projects, “The Moon in Deep Winter”. Then, we are set to complete our feature film, “The Secret Dream,” in July this year!
Interview: March 2018
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series, music video, women's films, LGBTIAQ+, scifi, horror, world cinema. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
The Girl Who Cannot Speak
The Girl Who Cannot Speak follows five women's true stories of sexual abuse. Each woman has been involved with the Lenox Hill Women's Shelter in New York city. As the project moves forward we meet Charlotte, a 13 year old girl who's story is depicted through visual images. She never speaks.
Length: 20 minutes
Director: Stefano Da Frè and Laura Pellegrini
Producer: Rosso Films International
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Buyers, distributors, and sale agents
Social media handles:
Instagram: @thesecretdreamfilm & @tumemanques_film
Funders: Whitney Museum Board of Directors
Made in association with: Rosso Films International
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month?
It will be premiering May 16th at the Olympia Theatre at the Cannes Film Festival for a World Premiere at the CURATED Documentary Program.