It was my great pleasure to get to attend a film festival in Taormina, Italy for the film Brave Miss World last week.
About four years ago, I found out through a mutual acquaintance that Cecilia Peck was finishing a documentary on the subject of rape. I was introduced to her, she asked if I would be one of the many survivors interviewed on film and I enthusiastically agreed. I was in the film for all of a few seconds but have wholeheartedly supported the film for its ability to communicate to so many people, the associated issues and feelings that accompany most/all rape survivors in a very powerful and tasteful way.
If anyone wants to view the film, it streams via Netflix and is also available to show in groups and in schools. If you click the link above, it will tell you how to accomplish this. Additionally, the website provides a place to both post your personal stories and read other’s stories as well. Violence against women is such a pervasive and prevalent issue. The statistic is that 1 in 3/4 women will be sexually assaulted in some way in their lifetime. Men are not immune to this issue either.
Since the film’s production, I have had the unique and wonderful experience of being able to speak about it at in a few different settings. It was shown on the UC Berkeley campus a few years ago where I went and participated on a post film panel and also at the Minneapolis Film Festival last spring where I did the same. I also talked about it and showed a 4 minute trailer at the recent talk I did at the Greater Philadelphia Hadassah Organization.
When Cecilia (Cecilia Peck Wikipedia-The film’s director and producer and happens to be the daughter of the legendary actor Gregory Peck) sent out an email last winter inviting any participants of the film to join her at the Taormina Festival, I was immediately interested. I feel the need to publicly thank Cecilia for her own bravery and resolve in taking on this issue via directing and producing this extraordinary film. I admire, respect and like her personally so very much. She is kind, understanding, compassionate and passionate. I just cannot say enough wonderful things about her and what she is doing for women as a whole through this film.
I had intended to perhaps take only my daughters to the film festival but as it turned out, the entire family wanted to come and we tacked on a family trip to Rome following our few day stay in Taormina. I was enormously touched that the men in my immediate family also were interested in watching the film again and in attending the film festival. I realize it was a long way to travel and not anyone who participated in the film could so easily attend for a variety or reasons but it was an experience I will treasure and cherish forever.
I was enchanted with the exquisitely charming city of/village of Taormina.
I had never been to Sicily and it is now certainly a place I would love to return to. Taormina sits elevated above the amazing Ionian sea below and is home to the ancient greek theater (built in the seventh century BC) and an active volcano Mt. Etna. (Click Link below to read more about Taormina)
Brave Miss World was shown at 10am last Wednesday morning and I got to participate briefly on the post film panel. I got to comment briefly as well. (See 1″ 43 second brief video if interested).
Here is also a link to an interview with Cecilia on YouTube:
Cecilia Peck Taormina Interview
The audience seemed to receive the film very warmly. Cecilia and her guests from the film were also invited to the evening festivities. I also had the distinct opportunity and pleasure to meet the Co-Producer and Film Editor Elisa Bonora who is equally passionate, compassionate and amazingly talented:
Elisa, Cecilia and me after Cecilia received her award in the ancient amphitheater in Taormina:
We had to wait outside the evening venue for a bit, as our kids decided to walk from the hotel to the evening venue, and we had been driven. (Just couldn’t walk in the high heels on the cobblestone streets). A couple of women approached me who had been in the audience earlier that day and expressed their thanks to me for participating on the film. Their words brought tears to my eyes and I was so touched to once again realize that this issue is truly universal among women and that rape and all sexual violence is so important to talk about.
Cecilia received an award in the amphitheater that evening for her commitment to fight violence against women.
I have uploaded a video of her acceptance speech from that evening in the ancient amphitheater to my Facebook page in the video section. It was too long to fit in this blog site.
Richard Gere also received an award for his lifetime achievements in film. We were seated in the row directly in from of him. (I think I discreetly took this picture of him): After a lovely reception and attending the awards ceremony, we all got to attend a lavish Italian dinner hosted by Vanity Fair in an elegant hotel. The formal dinner did not end until 1:30am.
Part of the teen table-Note cannoli in the foreground -WOW, were they ever about the most delectable things on earth! I had no idea they originated in Sicily!!! YUM!
All of us were having such a great time that we decided to get the youngest of the kids in the hotel “settled” and continue the celebration with the older teens. We all headed to a Taormina night club and literally danced until dawn until they finally closed the club. We walked in mass with our teen kids back to the hotel as dawn was breaking over the breathtakingly beautiful sea.
It felt like I had only slept a few minutes when we had to drag ourselves out of bed a few hours later. The travel day to Rome seemed very long. (A small price to pay for memories of a lifetime though).
I don’t think I have EVER literally danced until dawn in my 54 years on this planet. I loved every moment of it!!!
If you’ve never done it, I most highly recommend it. It was a night so memorable. I think this experience is in my top ten most phenomenal experiences I have ever had. It was yet another reminder that sometimes good things come from very bad situations and that perhaps some of us have these negative experiences in order to somehow use them to help make the world a better place for others. Reflecting upon the shame, guilt, terror I felt so long ago it is so gratifying to see that progress has been made over the many years. I could never have imagined 24 years ago having an opportunity to participate in a film that illuminated all the issues surrounding sexual assault and encouraged survivors to speak out. I am ever so proud to have been a part of a film’s message to eradicate the shroud of silence surrounding abuse. Congratulations Cecilia, Elisa, all survivors in every corner of the globe and to all of you reading who believe in supporting survivors, the need for survivors to speak up and in changing societal viewpoints about this issue!
I would love to hear about what any of your thoughts are on this important subject too!!!