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March 30, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
One in four girls, and one in six boys. That, according to the CDC, is the number of children who will be sexually assaulted before reaching adulthood. It’s a sobering statistic, one that has been brought into sharp and painful focus in the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. Even before the hashtags began to proliferate, director Emily Kassie had found her own focus: the titular subject of her documentary, “A Girl Named C.”
An investigative journalist, Kassie has used film to tell hard stories before. Her Academy Award-winning short, “I Married My Family’s Killer,” took audiences into the aftermath of Rwanda’s devastating 1994 genocide, and the fraught reconciliations between survivors on both sides of the machetes. This time, her story came to her.
Assaulted at the age of 11, “C” began to use art and film to work her way through her trauma. She and her family struggled to piece their lives back together, moving across the country in the process, and began reaching out to other survivors and experts. In the process, they connected with Kassie.
“When C and her family came to me with what happened to them,” she recalls, “I couldn’t shake the sense that this was a story I needed to tell.”
A rape survivor herself, Kassie recognized not only a kindred spirit, but one whose artistry would help others relate to her as well. “I saw myself and the stories of my peers through C,” she explains, “and believed her perspective could elevate the conversation and give an audience real insight into what it means to go on living after an assault.”
She decided to focus less on the assault itself than on the aftermath, the personal impact on C’s psyche. “This film isn’t about proving something happened,” Kassie points out. “This isn’t about holding a particular assailant responsible.” Instead, it’s a journey into the mind of a child whose life has been derailed, as she and her family find their way back to new wholeness.
One powerful way that Kassie takes us into C’s mind is through her artwork. “We shoot the film from C’s perspective and through her art because it offers a different take on what it means to be a survivor,” she says. She teamed up with Mary Nittolo, the creative director of The STUDIO NYC, to transform C’s drawings and artistic style into vivid animated sequences that help viewers connect with her deepest thoughts and feelings. “This was an opportunity to enter into the body and mind of a survivor. To actually share the doubts, the fear, the disbelief.”
The film had moved into the post-production phase when #MeToo took over social media. With the statistics suddenly feeling more human and immediate than ever to people, Kassie knew that C’s story was more vital than ever. C has invited us into her world, and her mind, to see her wounds and how they begin to heal, and maybe to see ourselves in her. Above all, “this film is about empathy,” Kassie says, “and the common experience of loss that we’ve all felt in our childhoods, men and women alike.”
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