Last week we were proud to be able to host a preview screening of director Rachel Meyrick’s feature documentary WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME. Here she talks about the experience of screening her film with us…
If working on something for 4 years alone and finally showing the finished thing to a room of people wasn’t hard enough, POP UP DOCS had found me a court room for it to happen in.
Bath Council Chambers in The Guildhall, Bath was POP UP DOCS latest amazing venue for the first ever (preview) screening of WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME, a documentary about how American women struggle in court to keep custody of their children after leaving their abusive partners – sadly, most of the time they fail due to an inept court system.
A stunning Georgian Council Chamber with dark wood curved seating and the big screen at the front. I sat at the back watching the audience carefully for signs of fatigue or boredom and was really concerned when the credits came up and still not a sound. Turns out, everyone was a bit stunned which was GREAT! We had a lively Q and A session hosted by POP UP DOCS’ Clair Titley, a woman who was instrumental in the final structure of the film as my edit producer. One year ago POP UP DOCS had hosted a test screening of a roughcut of this film in order for me to get some kind of understanding of what the audience got from the film. After 3 years of working completely solo on this – camera/sound/producing/making tea, it was very hard to have perspective on what I was doing, so this previous test screening was invaluable.
During the 2016 test screening one of the things that arose was that nobody was clear at the beginning, what the film was about – I had no idea. I think the premise is so shocking they wanted to know upfront what the film was about and get on with following the explanation of ‘why’ for the rest of the film; basically the exact same journey I had just been on over the 4 years making the film.
“How is it that abusive fathers can be getting custody of kids more frequently over the protective mothers?”
Four years on I have a fair grasp on why but still it does not make sense when you say it out loud. During the last year Clair and I had worked and reworked, shot more, killed some of my favourite bits and ended up with a finished product with music and graphics; proud to show it to a fresh Bath POP UP DOCS audience.
One of the highlights at the Council Chambers last Saturday was from an audience member who had also attended the test screening a year previous, as a school counsellor in training she had used the information in the film about the ACE study (Adverse Childhood Experiences study) in her work with teenagers. I found this very moving, as did many others in the room. One woman said she felt like she was on trial like the mothers in the film, sitting, as we were, in a courtroom. Other people wanted to know more about individuals in the film and discuss around whether this is happening in our country in the same manner (it is).
It really felt like those 4 years of unpaid toil was validate by the gratitude with which the audience gave; their engagement with the subject and their palpable passion to see this travesty is exposed further.
Thank you POP UP DOCS
Rachel’s film has been triple F rated and is distributed by WOMEN MAKE MOVIES and you can keep up to date with news related to the film via twitter: @whatdoesnkillme
HERE’S WHAT THE AUDIENCE SAID…..
“While most audiences are enjoying the fairytale ending of Beauty & The Beast this week, WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME exposes a national travesty that can barely be believed. Both sensitive and shocking, this documentary lays bear a problem you never knew existed but one you know needs solving. Rachel has clearly worked very hard to bring this story to the big screen but above all, is incredibly brave to tackle such a subject for her directorial debut” – David Wall – Director & Co-Founder, Dusted
“In a world where social and legal equity is still in short demand for many, films like What doesn’t kill me are crucial for giving a voice to the voiceless and the silenced. It is a powerful portrayal of how those with social, economic and political capital can crush those who do not. What doesn’t kill me does that rare thing of uncovering a largely unknown, but pervasive, scandal through the telling of personal stories of women whose lives have been inexorably affected by wide scale systemic failure. “ – Chris Sowton, Freelance International Education Consultant
“WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME was harrowing viewing and yet left me feeling fired up rather than despairing. The mothers featured in this film have been crying out to be heard and the hope and trust that Rachel inspired in them is palpable. I came away hopeful that this film has the power to change things, to open people’s eyes to the suffering of victims of domestic violence and the further injustices many have to endure should they dare to speak up for themselves. As an adoptive parent, I live with the traumatic effects of domestic violence. This film gives powerful voice to victims of domestic violence, making it clear that more must be done to protect them and make it safe for them to escape before the damage becomes irrevocable.” – Bo Wiseman, Video Production, Adoptive Parent
“This is a powerful and timely film that manages to be a call to arms that conveys the gravity of the subject matter, whilst at the same time avoiding getting mired in accusations and politics. That being said it has the weight to open eyes and hopefully help to bring much needed change.” – Dan Wiseman – Wiseman Productions
WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME gave me amazing insight into the hidden lives of those living with the consequences of domestic abuse. The film gave a voice not just to the abused partners but also to the even more rarely heard voices of the children affected. An amazing piece of work that all those interested in social injustice should see. – Angie Sowton – In School Child Counsellor.
Charlotta Harrison survived 42 years of domestic violence. She believes telling her story will save others.*
Bath-based Director Rachel Meyrick has made this film, WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME, to share Charlotta and others’ stories with the world. POP UP DOCS are showing it on the big screen for the first time ever + a Q&A with Meyrick on Sat 25th March, 7pm at Bath Guildhall. Join us, click here for tickets & more info: https://what_doesnt_kill_me_popupdocs.eventbrite.co.uk
Domestic violence: to stay or to go? Why do US courts favour the abusive father in custody cases?*
It’s a tough topic, an emotional topic, looking into the custody battles which follow a victim’s brave choice to stand up and put a stop to this abuse and how, in the U.S. justice system, the abusive father is granted custody of the children in a huge majority of cases.
Some have compared this to “the Catholic Church scandal” where many knew of injustice but chose to act as though nothing was going on, presumably to avoid rocking the boat.**
“(U.S.) Courts are handing the custody of children to their abusive fathers in THE MAJORITY of cases in which the father challenges the protective mother for custody” (SOURCE: National Network to End Domestic Violence, NNEDV)
WHAT DOESN’T KILL ME
Dir. Rachel Meyrick | 2017 | UK
Camera: Rachel Meyrick / Laura Mcgann
Editor: Rachel Meyrick / Sam Sneade
Executive Producers: John Sidaway / Sam Sneade
**see Philomena | 2013 | Dir. Stephen Frears | http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2431286/