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—Published on 12th Dec, 2023.

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The Filmmakers Collaborative of Trinidad and Tobago (FILMCO) was pleased to launch the brand i-ADVOCATE at the 2023 Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival. This film block recognizes that film has always been a powerful medium for advocacy and change. It can break barriers and shift perspectives by enabling audiences to identify with the stories it portrays.

This year, this special film block titled i-ADVOCATE, was dedicated to shedding light on critical issues surrounding domestic violence and women’s rights. It was co-curated with entries from the Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival and films from the European Film Festival in Trinidad and Tobago. These impactful films were

On December 5, 2023, FILMCO was invited to team up with the Coalition Against Domestic Violence to screen the i-ADVOCATE film block to over eighty young men from the The MiLAT Programme, a social intervention Programme that is fully sponsored and funded by the Ministry of National Security of Trinidad and Tobago.

The film block screening was followed by an interactive panel discussion with the young men in the audience. The panel included representation from the Board of the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, Mr. Kevin Liiverpool, His Excellency Peter Cavendish Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Delegation of the European Union and Mrs. Miranda Dookran of the Gender and Child Affairs Division.

Statistically, 1 in 3 women experience domestic violence globally. This includes the Caribbean region. Such violence, also known as ‘domestic abuse’ or ‘intimate partner violence,’ is defined by the United Nations as “a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain, or maintain, power and control over an intimate partner.” Violence against women and girls is one of the world’s most prevalent human rights violations, taking place every day, many times over, in every corner of the globe. It has serious short- and long-term physical, economic and psychological consequences on women and girls, preventing their full and equal participation in society.

We asked Andrea more about her motivation for being an advocate through film. Sexual abuse and domestic violence suffered daily by women in Honduras are subjects that form part of the work of Andrea Arauz, who will be sharing the documentary “Cuerpos Vivos” at ttff/23. The producer and director decided to make her camera a “weapon to defend human rights in the country” and report on the violence experienced in Central America.

Raised in Honduras, but with parents from Nicaragua and El Salvador, Andrea Arauz found in cinema “a way to talk about her message and promote change in the world, even if it is small”. “Especially during the pandemic, the numbers of sexual abuse and the rates of domestic violence increased a lot in Honduras”, the director shared. “The government did nothing and those women were without hope, alone, trying to survive that reality”.

It was from the desire to use art as a tool for change that “Cuerpos Vivos” was born, which, throughout its 17 minutes, follows the stories of Honduran women who suffered domestic violence and, some of them, who became young mothers, in the sequence of rapes and sexual abuse.

“I decided to speak with women from different social classes and these women shared with me their lives, their traumas, their fears and their tears, they spoke to me about abuse suffered in childhood”, continues the filmmaker.

Many of the victims did not receive support at the time of the abuse and had become young mothers with no opportunities and no certainty about the future. A reality experienced for a long time by the women of her country, which the Central American filmmaker wanted to reflect in her work.

We asked Nicola about her core reason for advocating through her work and being a voice for the voiceless. Cross shared “as a feminist filmmaker I aim to create a process and product that challenges existing dominant narratives. Power is complex, relative and constantly changing. The question is therefore, how can I use my own power, which itself fluctuates, to create change? I work mainly with NGOs and individuals whose ethics align with mine. I am the filmmaker and they are the expert in their field. The Storyteller is the expert on their lived experience. Together, we convey the nuances and complexities and contradictions of lived realities.  I make it clear to storytellers that this is their story. During filming we are basically in conversation. They have control to choose what they want to talk about and stay clear of what they don’t want to share. Storytellers have the final say in the edit and can change their minds at anytime, regardless of signed permissions. My intention is not to re-traumatise them.”

To these powerful filmmakers, we thank you so much for being a part of the i-ADVOCATE film block. We thank the Coalition Against Domestic Violence, for providing FILMCO with the opportunity to showcase their work and influence change in the perceptions amongst young men and women relating to healthy relationships.

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