Film images of violence too much for peace gathering

Film images of violence too much for peace gathering

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John Ahni Schertow
June 25, 2006
 

Graphic content of tale about migrant women ‘all too real’ for many in the audience

By Eva Salinas; Vancouver – It was an image that hit too close to home. It began with a beautiful, bright-eyed young Mexican woman being verbally abused and sexually assaulted by a man with whom she was driving across the border, thousands of kilometres away from British Columbia.

The film was only 10 minutes long — and has won praise internationally — but yesterday at the Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, it was impossible to get through. After a few minutes, as the language and content became more explicit and violent, vocal opposition began rising from corners of the room and the centre’s staff shut it off, to some applause.

The film, an independent fictional story, was made to illustrate the plight of many migrant women and has been shown at film festivals around the world.

“It was all too real,” said Diane Wood, who lives in the neighbourhood, and whose most recent boyfriend threatened to kill her.

“If you have been sexually abused, and he was wearing a cologne and you smell it again — it was that heavy of a trigger,” she said.

More than 60 women gathered at the centre yesterday morning for the first event of the World Peace Forum to build support for migrant women who face violence.

More than 3,000 delegates are expected in the city during the next four days from 97 different countries to discuss ways of building peaceful and sustainable communities.

At yesterday’s kickoff, women from the Popular Indigenous Council of Oaxaca in Mexico described how their government ignores the rights of women in their villages. They were surprised that the film’s images, which depicted a situation in which women commonly find themselves, were hard to take.

“I see this problem that we face in Mexico and I see it here in the Downtown Eastside,” said Amorita Rasgado, who played the abused woman in the film.

Ms. Rasgado, 26, moved from Oaxaca to Vancouver after receiving a fellowship to study film here.

She was not expecting the crowd’s reaction. “I know it’s very strong, but it’s strong because it’s our reality,” she said. “Since I was little, I saw my mothers and grandmothers being beaten daily.

“You just live with that and you don’t really realize that it’s not normal. . . . Then you see that it happens to other women too.”

It was a sentiment echoed in the packed room, as the diverse group of women made suggestions on how to heal each other — stick together, get involved in politics, stay firm in their beliefs.

Stories of female repression were in abundance and where the discussion fell short, perhaps, was in offering solid solutions. However, the messages of solidarity were plentiful as women arrived from the Council of Canadians, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace and the international organization Code Pink. Independent delegates included a 12-year-old from Powell River and her mother.

After watching part of the film, the crowd welcomed a moment of calm in the form of an indigenous healing ceremony. A stone egg was rubbed over a woman’s chest, back and head while she stood in a column of incense.

In a final unified action, they took to the streets, marching to the Mexican consulate on West Hastings Street.

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