A Beautiful Life

September 20, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog

A Beautiful Life, a film I co-wrote and produced will be released on October 2nd.

The film deals with rape and Maggie’s (the lead character) belief that love and violence are one and the same.  I’m not going to give the plot away but the film ends on a hopeful note and that is the beauty of the story and that is why I spent so many years of my life trying to make this movie.

I’m often asked what attracted me to the material, as it was a play first.  Early on my response was: “It’s really compelling material.” But the truth is I have a lot in common with the lead character.

For one, I was sexually assaulted in 1994 when the US was the host of the World Cup.  I was attacked by a fellow Brazilian, an attorney, who was here with the Brazilian delegation.

This happened right after I moved to LA from NY and after my divorce from a very unhappy marriage.  Needless to say I was very fragile.

I was able to go to the police station and because the OJ, Nicole Simpson case had just happened, I was taken very seriously.  The man was arrested in his pajamas at the Beverly Hilton Hotel and the police took his passport away. 

His friends found my phone number and started calling me at all hours of the day pleading with me not to testify.  “He didn’t mean it.  You know how Brazilians are.  He has a one year old boy” his friends kept saying while my mind kept thinking: “Maybe I shouldn’t have been so nice, did I lead him on?  I did fight.  I did ask him to stop.”  What ended up happening during the assault is that I left my body.  It was like my spirit was hovering over me and watching from a distance the scene below. 

The police sent me to the Santa Monica rape crisis center.  I was there assigned to a therapist.  Their goal was to help me.

The man had appendicitis in jail and was taken to the hospital.  His friends kept calling me. The detectives kept calling me: “We’re counting on you to testify” they would say.  And I didn’t know what was up or down.

My Santa Monica therapist said to do what I wanted, do what I could.  What I wanted was to run.  What Maggie wanted was to run.

After a couple of months I told the detectives I couldn’t spend another year of my life getting phone calls and feeling guilty.  The detectives were angry at me.  They thought it would be an easy case but without my testimony they didn’t think they could get a conviction and decided to let him go.

I wished I had more time to calm down before having had to make the decision to testify or not.  Victims of sexual abuse are often so immersed in shame that the last thing we want is to be placed in a court of law and answer antagonistic questions from the defense attorneys. 

I wished the therapist that was assigned to me would have also helped me understand that by letting the guy go I might put other women in jeopardy.  I still hope his experience here was enough to put a stop to his actions.  But I don’t know.

Maggie and A Beautiful Life became my way out of my shame and paralyses.  By working on her words and her hope, I gave myself hope.   I turned my loss into something positive but I was lucky to be able to do that. 

There are so many of us, men and women, that have experienced what it is to be objectified; to count as much in the eyes of another as a table or chair. 

I don’t know what makes a rapist a rapist but I do know we need better tools to help the victims and to be able to put the criminal on trial without having to drag the victim through another humiliation.

A Beautiful Life is a tough movie.  It puts in the foreground the very real consequences of abuse including the rejection and the blame that we suffer even from people that love us.

Maybe the film is not everyone’s cup of tea but the subject it discusses should be everyone’s cup of tea as it happens more often than we care to know.   

But what I really have in common with Maggie is that I too want A Beautiful Life and like her, I won’t stop fighting for it no matter what life throws my way.

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