Dream­catcher

Herizons - - Arts & Culture - Di­rected by Kim Longinotto

Dream­catcher is told by film­maker Kim Longinotto in a straight-ahead vérité style, un­flinch­ingly and with­out sen­ti­men­tal­ity.

The documentary fol­lows Brenda My­ers-Powell, a for­mer pros­ti­tute, as she works on the streets of Chicago of­fer­ing women help, con­doms, sup­port or a word. My­ers-Powell be­lieves in the power of nar­ra­tive, and she breaks the cy­cle of si­lence by pro­vid­ing a safe place for women to talk to other women who have worked the streets. Many of those women are in prison, where they con­tinue to be pun­ished by a sys­tem that has vic­tim­ized and ex­ploited them.

There are a few im­por­tant mes­sages in this film.The first is that the abil­ity of nar­ra­tive to heal shame is pow­er­ful.The sec­ond is that the sys­tem of pros­ti­tu­tion and, more broadly, the sys­tem of pa­tri­ar­chal cul­ture, keep women sep­a­rate from, and hos­tile and sus­pi­cious to­wards one an­other. This keeps them from or­ga­niz­ing. Thirdly, we need more peo­ple step­ping out of their com­fort zones to at­tend to peo­ple in need.

My­ers-Powell gives hope both to the women and to the men caught in this web and of­fers them a way out by telling their sto­ries. Thus, they of­ten find free­dom and step out of the cy­cle of shame.The women we see be­gan work­ing the streets as chil­dren. They were of­ten vic­tim­ized be­fore they reached the streets, a place that of­fers them noth­ing but be­trayal and heart­break.

The story is told from the per­spec­tive of the pros­ti­tutes—those who are ready to stop, as well as those who aren’t—in pris­ons, ju­ve­nile de­ten­tion cen­tres and high schools and on the streets.We see women in prison try­ing to heal their pain and we hear from Homer, a re­formed pimp, who de­scribes how the cy­cle of poverty al­lows few em­ploy­ment op­tions to many African-Amer­i­can men.

My­ers-Powell tells her own story of a bru­tal child­hood, one that was fol­lowed by a cy­cle of ex­ploita­tion and self-loathing that fol­lowed her onto the streets.At one point, she was dragged down a street by a car. To­day, My­ers-Powell works with those who have been im­pris­oned be­cause of pros­ti­tu­tion-re­lated crimes and runs an or­ga­ni­za­tion called Dream­catch­ers. This woman seems to carry the pain and hope of these women she works to help.

Com­mod­i­fied and dis­pos­able, these im­pov­er­ished women are cul­ti­vated and har­vested. Traf­fick­ing, after all, feeds off of the cy­cles of abuse and poverty and the en­slave­ment of marginal­ized pop­u­la­tions. Dream­catcher ex­am­ines a sys­tem where in­fra­struc­tures are cre­ated for preda­tors and where the most vul­ner­a­ble mem­bers of the pop­u­la­tion are ex­ploited and bro­ken.In this sys­tem, so­cial ser­vices are weak, invit­ing the viewer to ques­tion what would hap­pen if My­ers-Powell didn’t ex­ist.She doesn’t pres­sure the women she works with but de­liv­ers the mes­sage that change is pos­si­ble.

The film demon­strates how the world in which pros­ti­tu­tion oc­curs breaks and de­grades ev­ery­one in it. Dream­catcher com­mands us to end the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women and to end the hu­man traf­fick­ing of at-risk youth.

This film is a tri­umph as a so­cial doc­u­ment and an ex­am­ple of what is pos­si­ble when one per­son steps out of their world of rel­a­tive priv­i­lege and com­fort and takes ac­tion.

Dream­catcher shows us all what kind of world it would be if each of us made such a con­tri­bu­tion and woke our­selves up to the per­pet­u­a­tion of ex­ploita­tion and an­guish that lives and breathes on our own streets.

In Dream­catcher, Brenda My­ers-Powell car­ries the pain and hope of the women she helps.

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