Nancy Schwartzman has taken a very personal experience about sexual assault that sadly many women have been through and used it to create a cultural conversation about sexual responsibility. She is an impressive activist and filmmaker. She asks people to define – where is your line between consent and rape?
Here’s the description from the website:
Told through a “sex-positive” lens, THE LINE is a 24 minute documentary about a young woman – the filmmaker- who is raped, but her story isn’t cut and dry. Not a “perfect victim,” the filmmaker confronts her attacker, recording the conversation with a hidden camera. Sex workers, survivors and activists discuss justice, accountability and today’s “rape culture.” The film asks the question: where is the line defining consent?
Nancy is going to be in NYC this week on a panel “Story Leads to Action” at the 92STY Tribeca on April 15th and Women & Hollywood asked her some questions about her film and her work.
Women & Hollywood: It takes a lot of guts to make a film about a difficult personal experience. Why did you feel compelled to make this film?
Nancy Schwartzman: I was sexually assaulted while living in Jerusalem, by a man I worked with and willingly went to bed with. The night took a turn for the worse, and he raped me. I was shocked and horrified; I thought no one in Jerusalem would understand that even if I were already in his bed that this was rape.
I waited until I got back to “civilization” (i.e. New York) where I felt safer talking about what happened, to admit what happened and describe the experience. But at home, my friends, people I trusted and who cared about me, minimized the experience, found ways to blame my behavior for what happened (flirting, drinking, being American). They told me what happened wasn’t that bad.
Had people understood the definition of assault, and had the courage to recognize when it is complicated, but still a violation and why, and / been supportive I wouldn’t have needed to make this film. I wouldn’t have understood how deeply we as a culture excuse and apologize for rape, assault and violation. It gave the film a life beyond my own story, and it gave me a place to explore the complexity of the issue, both personally and politically.
W&H: Is “the line” different for everyone? Is there more difference between men and women?
NS: Absolutely! That diversity of expression, opinion and preference is what inspired the entire campaign. I wanted to capture the conversations people were having after seeing the film, how they thought about their own lives, what they brought back into their bedrooms, so we asked: where is your line? And we collect the answers on our site.
W&H: You have taken the film on the road and talk about sexual assault. What has been the most gratifying about your travels and has been the most difficult?
NS: Most gratifying: when young men who leap up in the their seats after a screening to come and tell me how inspiring the film is, how they feel trapped by traditional ideas of “masculinity” and have learned something, and want to see a change on their campus and in their lives. The ones who ask loudly, in front of their peers, why more men don’t exhibit basic emotional intelligence, and why we let those who behave badly off the hook, and how men can not afford to see bad behavior and look the other way. I love those moments.
Most difficult: the endemic nature of sexual assault. Especially highlighting a story like mine, a rape between friends, acquaintances, partners, or classmates. My story is so common. I’m glad the film enables women to speak up and share, but the numbers can be overwhelming. Ultimately the more we break the isolation and come together, the louder, stronger and angrier we get, the more chance we have to put an end to sexual violence as a cultural norm and as a college experience.
W&H: You show that a film has the ability to impact and open up a dialogue about an important issue. Is film able to do this differently than other mediums?
NS: I think storytelling: intimate, raw, honest exchanges, whether it be spoken word, radio, performance or film allow us to open up, feel and transform. Film is so tangible, and when shared in a crowded room, in the dark, it can be a collective experience.
W&H: Are you a filmmaker or activist first?
First and foremost, I’m a storyteller, and I want to build community and create change around the films that I make.
W&H: What did you learn most about yourself in this process?
NS: I crave collaboration. I hate working alone.
W&H: What advice do you have for other filmmakers?
NS: Partnerships are everything Good partners and collaborators are truly a gift – they are hard to find, they are worth waiting for, and they should be treasured.
Know your audience! Especially documentary filmmakers. Let the web be your guide, if you’re exploring a topic, what are the folks living and breathing that topic interested in? What are they already talking about, how can you add and enhance or challenge the conversation? Make sure you love your subject matter, cause you’re going to be stuck with it for a long time…
More info: Where is Your Line