On an official visit to Italy prior to entering the Miss World Pageant, Linor Abargil was raped by a man whom was supposed to be protecting her. A modeling agency connected her with a travel agent whom spoke Hebrew, and he assisted in arranging her transportation back to Israel. The incident occurred while he was driving her to the airport in Rome, in which he pulled the car off the road. Mere weeks later, Abargil was crowned Miss World, her dream of wearing the crown clouded by the trauma of the violence she endured. Cecilia Peck’s Brave Miss World follows Abargil’s decision to speak out about her rape after ten years and gives voice to her ongoing process of healing. Following her journey as she meets with other survivors around the world, Peck unveils the terrible truth of the global epidemic of sexual violence against women.
Via SFF’s film lounge in Supernova Café, SRQ sits down with the film’s director Cecilia Peck and producer Inbal Lessner before their second screening today at 5pm.
How did this project come together?
It took Linor 10 years of healing to get ready to speak out with her story and reach out to other women, but once she did she wanted to document it so her work could reach more people. She was looking for a woman director and had seen a film I did called Shut Up and Sing about the Dixie Chicks speaking out against Bush and the invasion of Iraq. Linor loved the immediacy and feeling of the journey, and she wanted her story to be like that. Inbal joined in that first meeting, and it developed from there.
The film screened last night at the Through Women’s Eyes festival. How was the audience reception?
Through Women’s Eyes was a very supportive festival for us, and we held a discussion group at Supernova following that was eye-opening and insightful.
We had a full house at Through Women’s Eyes and a very supportive audience. The film received standing applause at the end.
What is your ambition for the film?
We hope it gets as big and wide as it can, so we can change minds and ignite the conversation concerning what it means to be a rape survivor. We want to show how we should react when somebody has the courage to come forward. We had an activist at a private screening in New York whom was a survivor, and they disclosed that once victims come forward the first thing to always tell them is “I hear you. I believe you, and I support you.”
The rape survivors we met feel that they aren’t heard by law enforcement and in the courtroom. If a rape survivor is lucky enough to report and press charges, the rapist’s lawyer will denigrate her character, and it’s as though the victim is on trial herself. We just want to draw attention to the issue and start a dialogue about it.
What do you want your audience to take away, particularly women?
We hope that it will give survivors the courage to tell someone, to report the crime, not to feel ashamed, not to blame themselves and not to be silent. One in four women are raped or assaulted and one in six men. We all know someone that it happened to. We are trying to shine a light on it.
In the center of our film is a beauty queen, but she’s really like any other woman. We hope people find themselves in the film. The other message of our film is that the healing is ongoing. You don’t just get over it.
Tell me what you think of the festival?
We have been on our own for so long trying to raise money and scrape together funds for each shoot, and we haven’t had a lot of support. To be here and be so warmly embraced is incredible. It’s indescribable.
There is a community of people here who are not just intelligent and want interesting content, but they are willing to act upon it and rally behind it. We hope they’ll continue with us on our journey to bring this film to more audiences.
Brave Miss World is a cornerstone of this year’s Through Women’s Eyes Film Festival, a microcosm of SFF. This festival features independent films by women filmmakers that seek to expand awareness of the lives of women throughout the world.