Film has uni­ver­sal theme

Film on do­mes­tic vi­o­lence preven­tion opens door to deal­ing with the past

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - ARTS & ENTERTAINMENT - BY SALLY COLE

On a sul­try sum­mer night 22 years ago, 18-year-old At­tiya Khan, fear­ing for her life, bolted from her home. She was run­ning from her ex-boyfriend Steve, who had been hurt­ing her on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Years later, Khan asks Steve to meet up with her. She wants to know his mem­o­ries of their re­la­tion­ship and whether he is will­ing to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for his vi­o­lent ac­tions.

This is the premise of the doc­u­men­tary, “A Bet­ter Man”, that is be­ing screened on July 15, 2 p.m., at the Florence Sim­mons Per­for­mance Hall as part of 2017 P.E.I. Film, Food and Ideas Fes­ti­val.

“What makes my story unique is that I in­vited the per­son who harmed me into a con­ver­sa­tion about the vi­o­lence he in­flicted on me,” says Khan, dur­ing an in­ter­view over the in­ter­net.

Her proac­tive ap­proach to deal­ing with do­mes­tic abuse has re­ceived strong re­ac­tion.

“The first time I saw the film I was re­ally afraid for At­tiya. It’s hurt­ful and painful. But, she’s brave,” says P.E.I. fam­ily mem­ber Anne Mazer, who be­lieves the film is an im­por­tant ob­ject les­son.

“My hope is that it will open up a con­ver­sa­tion for young peo­ple. At­tiya is older now and she’s telling her story many

years after the fact. So I’m in­ter­ested in ways this story can be told ear­lier.”

While the film has an “in­tense” nar­ra­tive, it has a uni­ver­sal theme, says the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on the Sta­tus of Women.

“Within the story there are many, many mo­ments that

peo­ple will rec­og­nize that will open up a con­ver­sa­tion of what we can do to pre­vent this form of abuse, what can be done to ad­dress it and what heal­ing might be like,” says Jane Led­well.

Di­rected by Khan and Lawrence Jack­man, it’s an im­por­tant film for Prince Ed­ward Is­landers to see, says the ex­ec­u­tive

di­rec­tor of the Women’s Net­work of P.E.I.

“On P.E.I. there are a lot of peo­ple ex­pe­ri­enc­ing vi­o­lence. And that vi­o­lence is gen­der­based. I also be­lieve that as Is­landers, we don’t like to talk about the vi­o­lence that ex­ists in our com­mu­ni­ties. So bring­ing a film like this here starts a com­mu­nity con­ver­sa­tion that’s des­per­ately needed here,” says Jil­lian Kil­foil.

Khan agrees.

“If we want to pre­vent vi­o­lence then we need to talk with peo­ple who are us­ing vi­o­lence and peo­ple who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing it. Peo­ple who choose to use vi­o­lence need help and sup­port to work to­wards hav­ing healthy and car­ing re­la­tion­ships. Peo­ple who are ex­pe­ri­enc­ing vi­o­lence need help and sup­port to find safety, jus­tice and heal­ing,” she says.

The spe­cial pre­sen­ta­tion will also in­clude a screen­ing of “I Didn’t For­get”, a tes­ti­mony from Kin­ley Dowl­ing that de­picts the events that in­spired her song “Mi­cro­phone”, a song that re­counts the night she was raped in a field after her prom

16 years ago. After rec­og­niz­ing the shame and anger she had been car­ry­ing with her, Dowl­ing de­cided to ex­press her feel­ings through spo­ken word and mu­sic. She chose her friend, P.E.I. film­maker Jenna MacMil­lan, to di­rect both films. Both women will at­tend Satur­day’s screen­ing.

“I am re­ally happy that our film is part of the P.E.I. fest and is paired with the film, “A Bet­ter Man”, says Dowl­ing.

“The sub­ject of sex­ual as­sault is an im­por­tant topic that needs to be dis­cussed openly in or­der to stop it from hap­pen­ing.

“Jenna and I are happy to be part of that con­ver­sa­tion.”

SALLY COLE/THE GUARDIAN

Anne Mazer, right, is the mother-in-law of At­tiya Khan whose real-life story is told in, “A Bet­ter Man”, to be screened Satur­day at 2 p.m., as part of P.E.I. Fest in Florence Sim­mons Per­for­mance Hall, Hol­land Col­lege in Char­lot­te­town. Com­mu­nity sup­port­ers of the film in­clude, from left, Jil­lian Kil­foil, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Women’s Net­work of P.E.I., and Jane Led­well, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Prince Ed­ward Is­land Ad­vi­sory Coun­cil on the Sta­tus of Women.

SUB­MIT­TED PHOTO

At­tiya Khan, a co-di­rec­tor of “A Bet­ter Man”, con­ceived the idea for the doc­u­men­tary in 2012, draw­ing on her per­sonal and pro­fes­sional ex­pe­ri­ence with in­ti­mate part­ner vi­o­lence.

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