MOVIE OF THE WEEK December 13, 2019: THE BODY REMEMBERS WHEN THE WORLD BROKE OPEN

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The story revolves around Rosie (Violet Nelson) and Aila (Tailfeathers), two women living in Vancouver. Aila, who has just gotten her first IUD and is a little bit nonplussed by the brusqueness of the procedure, encounters the pregnant Rosie on the street. Rosie is shaken and upset, and Aila quickly realizes that Rosie has fled an abusive partner. So she takes Rosie home, hoping to help her — and her unborn baby — find safety.

But it turns out that helping Rosie isn’t as straightforward as giving her clean clothes and calling around to find a spot for her in a shelter. She’s a complex person with a complicated life, and she isn’t necessarily looking for a savior. She finds Aila’s sympathy and attentions appealing, but she doesn’t want to be seen or treated as a victim. She’s simultaneously defiant and scared, vulnerable and full of bravado. Aila, meanwhile, very much wants to do the right thing — but what does that really entail?

Like life, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open doesn’t offer easy answers. Sometimes people make choices that others can’t understand. Sometimes the known is easier than the unknown. But in telling Aila and Rosie’s story, the film offers a raw, honest look at the realities of domestic abuse and the power of reaching out to help someone in need. — Betsy Bozdech

Team #MOTW’s comments:

Leslie Combemale The uncomfortable silences, the big judgements and little mercies, those are just a few elements that bring cohesion and a rare authenticity to Canadian indie drama The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open. Co-writer/directors Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn examine one small corner in the experience of domestic abuse through the encounter of two First Nations women with vastly different economic situations, and they do it nearly in real time, and almost entirely in one unbroken shot. Issues like bodily autonomy, the politics of abortion and the financial burden of motherhood for women with limited means, as well as racism as it is meted out to those who read more or less as “other” are considered and with sensitivity and insight. There is both a calmness and a bone-deep rage that permeate interactions between the two lead characters Rosie (Violet Nelson) and Áila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers), but their relationship, as it develops, is nuanced, complicated, and often deeply moving. The film speaks to the need for compassion for its own sake, not for how it is received, which is an essential lesson for these bizarre, challenging times.

Pam Grady: A boyfriend’s latest violent onslaught sends pregnant Rosie (Violet Nelson) fleeing into the streets of Vancouver, shoeless, where she meets Aila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) in Tailfeathers and Kathleen Hepburn’s fraught, intimate feature. The drama is framed largely as a tracking shot that intensifies ever increasing tension and a profound feeling of discomfiture between the two women who are both indigenous, but otherwise have nothing in common. In particular, while shining a light on the challenges involved in confronting domestic abuse, the film also focuses on the conflict that arises out of the women’s differences. Class plays a big role – struggling Rosie is suspicious of this middle-class woman’s meddling in her life and sees her offer to help as condescension. Aila genuinely wants to aid this stranger and her unborn baby and get them out of a terrible situation, but her well-intentioned concern only stokes Rosie’s resentment. Like Aila, the viewer can only watch as Rosie struggles with a choice between a leap into a future she is unable to fathom or a return to the peril of the life she knows in a drama that is as unsettling as it is compelling.

MaryAnn Johanson This is an extraordinary film, a heartbreaking portrait of a frustrating situation that all too many women find themselves in — on both sides of the dynamic here — yet which we rarely see depicted onscreen. The fact that the movie is almost one long (seemingly?) uncut take unraveling in real time means we get no respite from the ordinary nightmare as it unfolds before us: we are made complicit partners in events. We are like Aila, unable to look away, desperate to help, yet fundamentally helpless in the face of the impossible situation that Rosie is in. There can be no happy ending here, and, indeed, there is not.

Jennifer Merin Set in Vancouver, this feminist drama follows two women whose ethnic roots and social backgrounds have placed them outside the mainstream. They meet by chance when Aila witnesses Rosie being beaten by a man, and rescues her. During the one day they spend together, Aila tries to help pregnant and abused Rosie to get help in a woman’s shelter. We see that the women’s lives have parallel beginnings but divergent futures. The film’s hand held homemade look and slow-paced story development perfectly fit its theme and story. You can feel these women;s pulses. Created by co-writer/directors Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers (who also plays Aila), the film offers a feminist perspective on female characters rarely seen on the big screen.

Loren King This deliberately paced, remarkable first feature from Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers who co-directed and co-wrote the film with Kathleen Hepburn, centers on two indigenous young women, Áila (played by Tailfeathers) and Rosie (Violet Nelson) who meet by chance on the street and, by the end of their journey, may likely never meet again. But their story is raw and real and, if one sticks with it, rewarding. Read full review,

Sheila Roberts Filmmakers Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers’s Canadian indie, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open, is part of Ava DuVernay’s impressive ARRAY initiative, a grassroots distribution, arts and advocacy collective focused on independent films by people of color and women filmmakers globally. The unpretentious film set in Vancouver examines how class and racism impact two young indigenous women from vastly different social and ethnic backgrounds. Read full review.

Marina Antunes A chance encounter between two strangers becomes a complicated, emotional drama of two women dealing with pregnancy, relationships, and their cultural in very different ways. Captured in real-time, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open ebbs and flows through a nearly two hour ordeal that feels authentic and unscripted. Beautifully performed by Violet Nelson and Elle-Maija Tailfeathers.

< strong>Liz Whittemore: This is an extraordinary film, a heartbreaking portrait of a frustrating situation that all too many women find themselves in — on both sides of the dynamic here — yet which we rarely see depicted onscreen. The fact that the movie is almost one long (seemingly?) uncut take unraveling in real time means we get no respite from the ordinary nightmare as it unfolds before us: we are made complicit partners in events. We are like Aila, unable to look away, desperate to help, yet fundamentally helpless in the face of the impossible situation that Rosie is in. There can be no happy ending here, and, indeed, there is not. circle, both biological or otherwise. As an actor, it reminded me of how impactful the experience of silence is. This film’s power comes in many forms. It is honest and it is intimate. I’m delighted to see a story of two women not often represented on the big screen. The Body Remembers When The World Broke Open is an important film that you must seek out.

Cate Marquis In a cinema verite style drama with a contemplative pace, co-writer/directors Kathleen Hepburn and Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers focus on a chance encounter between two part-Indigenous women in Vancouver, in the Canadian indie drama . Aila (Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers) finds pregnant teen Rosie (Violet Nelson) standing barefoot on a street corner, bing berated by her abusive boyfriend on the other side of the street. Moved, Aila rescues the nearly-silent, stunned, and beaten Rosie, taking her back to her nearby apartment. Although Rosie cooperates at first, the teenager soon makes noises about leaving, clearly uncomfortable with Aila’s well-meaning but overwhelming concern. As they try to figure out what Rosie should do next in a push-and-pull drama, The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open explores feminist and social issues through their personal relationship.

FILM DETAILS:

Title: The Body Remembers When the World Broke Open

Directors: Kathleen Hepburn, Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers

Release Date: November 29, 2019

Running Time: 105 minutes

Language: English

Screenwriters: Elle-Máijá Tailfeathers, Kathleen Hepburn

Distribution Company: Experimental Forest Films, Ava DuVernay’s ARRAY

Trailer

Official Website

AWFJ Movie of the Week Panel Members: Sandie Angulo Chen, Marina Antunes, Nikki Baughan, Betsy Bozdech, Leslie Combemale, Marilyn Ferdinand, Pam Grady, MaryAnn Johanson, Loren King, Cate Marquis, Jennifer Merin, Nell Minow, Sheila Roberts, Liz Whittemore, Susan Wloszczyna

Previous #MOTW Selections

Other Movies Opening This Week

Edited by Jennifer Merin

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Jennifer Merin

Jennifer Merin is the Film Critic for Womens eNews and contributes the CINEMA CITIZEN blog for and is managing editor for Women on Film, the online magazine of the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, of which she is President. She has served as a regular critic and film-related interviewer for The New York Press and About.com. She has written about entertainment for USA Today, The L.A. Times, US Magazine, Ms. Magazine, Endless Vacation Magazine, Daily News, New York Post, SoHo News and other publications. After receiving her MFA from Tisch School of the Arts (Grad Acting), Jennifer performed at the O'Neill Theater Center's Playwrights Conference, Long Wharf Theater, American Place Theatre and LaMamma, where she worked with renown Japanese director, Shuji Terayama. She subsequently joined Terayama's theater company in Tokyo, where she also acted in films. Her journalism career began when she was asked to write about Terayama for The Drama Review. She became a regular contributor to the Christian Science Monitor after writing an article about Marketta Kimbrell's Theater For The Forgotten, with which she was performing at the time. She was an O'Neill Theater Center National Critics' Institute Fellow, and then became the institute's Coordinator. While teaching at the Universities of Wisconsin and Rhode Island, she wrote "A Directory of Festivals of Theater, Dance and Folklore Around the World," published by the International Theater Institute. Denmark's Odin Teatret's director, Eugenio Barba, wrote his manifesto in the form of a letter to "Dear Jennifer Merin," which has been published around the world, in languages as diverse as Farsi and Romanian. Jennifer's culturally-oriented travel column began in the LA Times in 1984, then moved to The Associated Press, LA Times Syndicate, Tribune Media, Creators Syndicate and (currently) Arcamax Publishing. She's been news writer/editor for ABC Radio Networks, on-air reporter for NBC, CBS Radio and, currently, for Westwood One's America In the Morning. She is also a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. For her AWFJ archive, type "Jennifer Merin" in the Search Box (upper right corner of screen).