F Words contributor Ellen Lundy took to the Feminist Film Festival in London recently and watched “What Doesn’t Kill Me”. Read all about it!
This low-budget movie is a tribute to the resilience, strength and indomitable spirit of women and their torturous stories. If, at the end of this heart-wrenching documentary, you’re not angrily denouncing the ineptitude and downright injustices of the American family legal system, then you need to purchase a single ticket journey on one of those Space X rockets blasting off soon at a launchpad near you.
British filmmaker Rachel Meyrick, formulated this exposé on the inequalities and systematic abuses of American women. She single handedly shot, edited, produced, directed and travelled throughout 6 years of her life, investigating the contradictions of the judicial system on the American child custody issue. We get personal accounts from women and children who have been subjected to systematic abuse, surviving mothers, domestic violence experts and family law attorneys - one of whom subsequently had to escape an abusive relationship, but didn’t feel that she could trust the legal system (in which she works) to protect her or her child. We’re talking about a system that favours the abusive father over the protective mother. I hear you, “No way! This cannot be real life!?” Alas it is far too real for most American women.
The protagonist of the film, the unassailable 86-year-old Charlotta, takes us through her 60 years of mental, verbal and physical abuse. Through this shero, we meet other survivors and their unique, yet hauntingly similar stories. We meet women and children who have been separated and silenced, who are now fighting back. Captured in a pre-Trump control we can’t help but wonder, one of the most powerful countries in the world wasn’t protecting the most vulnerable women and children then, so what’s put in place to help them now? I’m guessing not much given recent events in America and to quote Trump recently “Women are doing just fine”. Here’s one statistic you will learn from this harrowing documentary, 1 in 3 women who suffer from domestic abuse in America are killed everyday by their abuser. Women are doing just fine…?
The information given makes you want to scream, in fact there was the occasional “No!!!” “WHAT!?” and gasps filled with fear and sorrow in the theatre. However Meyrick’s pacing in this documentary is one of the main elements that moved me. One aspect in particular is a shot she uses just at the right moments from inside a moving car filming a suburban street. I feel that Meyrick is purposely putting her audience in the car with her, moving past these typical American family houses with dark, twisted, sadistic hidden tortures and gifts us with a sense of safety by moving past these houses instead of turning into one of the driveways of house of horrors.
Although this film focuses mostly on mothers, it needs to be watched by all. What Meyrick has so masterfully achieved is to lift the veil of pretence, to reveal the grotesque truth of the American family legal system.
“What doesn’t kill me” may concern the American family legal system however, disturbingly we can make the personal connection wherever you’re from. It’s a fact that laws and legislations pretty much everywhere favours men and not the other half of the population, women! This documentary educates, inspires and motivates change. We don’t leave our seat to reflect, we leave our seat to reform; not just for American women - but for women all round the globe.
Find out more here: whatdoesntkillme