Being there for the exploited in "Dreamcatcher"
January 24, 2015
Self-assured and exuding love, Brenda Myers-Powell is there. She is there for a room full of convicted prostitutes, dressed in matching prison uniforms. She is there for a classroom of teenage girls as they relay stories of being raped before their tenth birthdays, and she is there for women walking the most dangerous streets of Chicago late at night.
A survivor of abuse, rape, and 25 years as a prostitute, Myers-Powell has devoted her life to stopping sexual exploitation as the co-founder and executive director of The Dreamcatcher Foundation. Through education, outreach, therapy, and a philosophy of understanding she has been able to change the lives of many women and girls. Her work is the subject of the film "Dreamcatcher," an entry in the World Documentary Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.
Film director Kim Longinotto learned about Myers-Powell and The Dreamcatcher Foundation when one of the film’s producers made a trailer about Myers-Powell.
"[She] made the trailer about Brenda and she showed it to me and I wanted to make the film. I sort of fell in love with Brenda, which is what people do," explained Longinotto.
"[Myers-Powell] is not a victim. She’s had an incredibly hard life but she’s a survivor, a fighter really. She doesn’t try to hide her past; she uses her past to help other people. People like Brenda inspire us to be stronger. I hope I get the strength from her to be like her."
Throughout the film Myers-Powell connects with the women and girls she works with through optimism and acceptance. No matter where they are from or what they have had to do to survive, she offers her assistance without judgment or pressure and reminds them that no matter what they choose, she will be there.
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"I think she’s non-judgmental because she’s been through it all herself so she’s the best person for people to talk to," said Longinotto.
Although parts of the film are intense, they relay perspectives that would otherwise go unheard.
"I cried when I was filming but I was just so proud of them," commented Longinotto on a scene where abused high school girls tell Myers-Powell their heartbreaking stories.
"I think they spoke up because nobody had ever listened to them before, they’d never had a witness before. They knew that we would listen to them and anyone who sees the film would listen to them. If we pretend those things haven’t happened nothing will ever change. It’s been handed down over generations. People say we shouldn’t talk about rape in front of young people, but in that class you realize it’s been happening to girls since the age of 4. What upsets them is if no one listens to them."
According to Longinotto, the purpose of "Dreamcatcher" is simply to tell a story.
"It’s definitely not a message. I think people expect documentaries to give you a lot of information and tell you what to think. Half the time I don’t know what to think about anything."
Longinotto has received awards from Amnesty International, Sundance, and the Chicago International Film Festival, among others, but "Dreamcatcher" marks the first time she has made a film in America. Audience members will not be disappointed as Longinotto’s storytelling skills and Myers-Powell’s incredible tale come together on screen.
"Dreamcatcher," an entry in the World Documentary Competition at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It will screen Sunday, Jan. 25, at 6 p.m. at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre; Monday, Jan. 26, at 3:45 p.m. at the Salt Lake City Broadway Centre Cinema 3; Wednesday, Jan. 28, at 7 p.m. at Redstone Cinema 2; Friday, Jan. 30, at 9 a.m. at the Yarrow Hotel Theatre; and Saturday, Jan. 31, at 3:15 p.m. at Holiday Village 2.