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April 02, 2019 | posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers
Nancy Schwartzman has directed short documentary films, created the Circle of 6 mobile app (which has 350,000 users), and has presented internationally, including at the White House and United Nations. “My work over the past 10 years or more focused on the intersection of youth culture, technology, and sexuality,” she says. Her first feature-length documentary, “Roll Red Roll,” is her latest project.
The film covers the Steubenville, Ohio, rape case which made national headlines in 2012 when members of the high school football team assaulted a teenage girl in horrific fashion.
Schwartzman commented that what drew her to this particular case was “how social media influenced the telling of the story,” she says. “The availability of social media content really gave a window into how perpetrators and bystanders were treating [the situation].” The film goes into the heaps of evidence that were available regarding text messages and social media.
“Roll Red Roll” takes a different point of view. She notes that the focus is typically on the rape victim. “It all hinges and burdens the victim to tell her story, and we as the legal system and as the public are asked, ‘Do we believe this person?,’” she says.
Instead, Schwartzman focused on rape culture itself, the broader picture, and not just the perpetrators and victim. “With all the tweets talking about rape, joking about rape—‘Hey, did you see it,’ ‘Hey, we are going to do this’—it was so clear,” she remarks. “I had this really broad picture of not only how that night went down, but how the entire community and larger culture was accepting about that violence.”
The film fights against the “boys will be boys” mentality and the bystander effect—when people witness something, but do nothing to help. “We want people to take action from this film because what ‘Roll Red Roll’ lays bare is a callous, desensitized approach to sexual violence,” Schwartzman notes. “It’s letting it happen, seeing it, knowing about it, not doing anything, sharing, and laughing about it.”
Schwartzman did offer ways to fight back—starting with our local communities: schools, churches, teams, and friends. “We can all start with small steps, calling out the rape jokes, calling out the language, and taking it seriously,” she advises.
In spite of the difficult nature of her film, Schwartzman has a message of hope, change, and progress. She believes that our attitudes towards sexual assault can get better. “We can solve this,” she concludes. “This is not inevitable. This is not the way it has to be.”
—W. Connor Drake
PHOTO: Nancy Schwartzman, a graduate of Columbia University, uses storytelling and technology to create safer communities for women and girls. Her Circle of 6 app helps young women get in quick contact with friends for help when a potential unsafe situation occurs.
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