A screenplay by Mary Sewell
How do we react learning an un-confronted abuser has peacefully passed away? Letters of anger exist in our minds but are never sent. Why?
This film tells the tale of two sisters who, like many, were abused by a trusted family friend. It highlights the subtle strategies commonly used by abusers to gain access to children, while also incorporating elements of Maori legend. Spurred on by professionals in sexual abuse prevention, this film is a powerful tool for education and healing. It has been endorsed by filmmakers and survivors both here, and overseas.
Sexual abuse is a serious issue, yet Let Your Sisters Be manages to bridge the gap between despair and joy.
At a time when high profile predators are finally being held accountable for their crimes, we now find ourselves asking "what's the next step?"
Let Your Sisters Be answers that question. You can be part of the solution through the making of this film.
Our hope is that Let Your Sisters Be will be shared in schools, community centers, and universities in order to raise awareness for sexual abuse to bring about massive change. We will be seeking broadcast placements in the US and in New Zealand. It will be shot for cinema and distributed to festivals and art houses internationally.
PRODUCER / DIRECTOR - Aileen O’Sullivan
Aileen O’Sullivan has helmed drama and documentary for a wide range of mediums. Her first screen job was an acting role in The Governor. After directing on Gloss and The Billy T James Show, O'Sullivan set up her production company, Seannachie Productions. She is a passionate advocate for telling NZ stories; her subjects have included writers Witi Ihimaera and Ngaio Marsh, and dance troupe Black Grace.
CINEMATOGRAPHER-Alun Bollinger, MNZM
Alun has been crafting the slanting southern light onto film and other formats, for almost 40 years. He is arguably New Zealand's premier cinematographer; images framed by Bollinger's camera include some of the most indelible memories to come from iconic films like Goodbye Pork Pie, Vigil and Heavenly Creatures. Since the 1960s, Alun Bollinger has worked with almost every significant Kiwi director: among them Geoff Murphy, Ian Mune, Gaylene Preston, Vincent Ward, Roger Donaldson, Peter Jackson and Jane Campion.
EDITOR- Ken Sparks
Sparks has won three NZ TV awards, for his work editing James K Baxter's documentary, The Road to Jerusalem and his work as co-editor of acclaimed quake chronicle, When a City Falls. He also directed on hit series Heartland. Sparks' introduction to editing was working as an assistant on the Vincent Ward classic, In Spring One Plants Alone. Since then he has edited drama, dance films, many documentaries, music videos and commercials.
New Zealander Mary Sewell, currently resides in Madison, Wisconsin, USA. A professional violinist for over thirty years, Mary began working in production for independent film and recently found her voice in screen writing.
PRODUCER - Kath Thomas
Kathleen Thomas has a 25 year career in the film industry as Script Supervisor and Script Editor, working along side directors on 32 features, 19 shorts and TV drama series including - Whale Rider, In My Father’s Den, The Grudge (Japan), Deadlands, The Vintner’s Luck (France), Mr Pip (Bougainville), The Dark Horse, The Orator, 6 Days, Top Of The Lake Season 1&2, One Thousand Ropes. Kath made an independent documentary film Notes In The Wood earlier this year. As director and producer of her own work she has more recently become interested in the role of producing, taking up this offer as co-producer on Let Your Sisters Be - lured by the simplicity and sensitivity of Mary Sewell’s story.
ADVISOR / FUNDING PRODUCER -
Harriet’s 30 year career in International Development and Aid was born out of her curiosity of other cultures and desire to be part of a movement for justice, fairness and equality. She has worked with both International Non-Government Organisations (NGO’s) and National NGO’s with a focus on programme development, learning systems and governance. Harriet has significant experience in South East Asia and the Pacific. More recently Harriet spent five years in the role of Organisation Development Manager at HELP, Auckland and whose mission statement is “A world Free of Sexual Violence”. Harriet is a member of the Tear Fund New Zealand Board of Trustees (7 Years).
In 2013, Harriet heard of Mary’s desire to write the script for a short film based on her childhood experience of sexual abuse. She immediately saw the potential that such a film could have for change; a part of the jigsaw, bringing the silenced suffering and ongoing consequences of sexual abuse into the light and validating the experiences of other survivors of sexual abuse.
We are in this together. Parents and/ or caregivers need the tools to be able to “hear” their children and take action. And children need to feel secure that they can tell their adults about what is happening to them, how they feel and have the understanding that if the first adult does not “hear” them, to keep telling another adult until they are heard. This film encompasses one woman’s journey with the desire to break the silence, affirm others experiences and be part of the solution. Let Our Sisters Be is a wakeup call; a thoughtfully written and beautifully crafted story for all of us. We are all responsible to take our part in ensuring a world free of sexual violence and rape. WE are called to be guardians of our children.
Let Your Sisters Be is a beautiful piece of storytelling with a true New Zealand flavor. It will resonate with a wide cross-cultural, local, and global audience. Its strength comes from the simple, non-graphic way the story deals with dark secrets and generations of silence. An intersection of the child and the adult worlds, where abuse of trust and unspoken fears go undetected. Where women have remained silent for too long.
This film will help those with similar stories put their own past to rest. It will shed light on the importance of the message so carefully crafted throughout the script. It will be that glimmer of light, that seed of hope, that helps to heal. It is an important film to make, equally, it will be an important film to see.
Will you help us bring healing to many?
Sexual abuse is one of the key social problems undermining the health and wellbeing of our population today. It has a wide prevalence and can have a high impact.
1 out of 3 girls may be sexually abused before she turns 16 years old. Most of this abuse (90%) will be done by someone she knows and 70% will involve genital contact.
1 in 7 boys may be sexually abused by adulthood.
Approximately 1 in 5 New Zealand women experience a serious sexual assault. For some women, this happens more than once.
Young people are statistically at the highest risk of being sexually assaulted; the 16 – 24 year old age group is four times more likely to be sexually assaulted than any other age group.
People who are vulnerable in some way are also a more common target for sexual abuse, especially those with physical disabilities.
More then 23% of women who participated in a recent Auckland study reported that they had been sexually abused as children. Most of the abuse was perpetrated by male family members with an estimated median age of 30 years. For 50% of the women, the abuse had occurred on multiple occasions. The study also found that victims of childhood sexual abuse are twice as likely as non victims to experience later personal violence.
Research strongly demonstrates that physical and mental health problems resulting from sexual abuse and rape can be significant. Untreated impacts of abuse in childhood can continue to impact on survivors as adults in the form of depression, anxiety, impaired interpersonal relationships, parenting difficulties, eating difficulties, and/or drug and alcohol misuse to cope with strong feelings.
The long-term effects of sexual abuse on children have been correlated with almost every known mental health disorder and most of society’s ‘social problems’ such as early teenage pregnancy, single parenting and lifetime low social economic status.
Research points to a child’s home environment as a key factor in recovery. Early intervention of specialist services can make the difference between a family that is able to develop an emotionally safe home environment that both heals and prevents future abuse, versus a family that leaves a child isolated and vulnerable in dealing with the aftermath of the abuse.
Women who seek counselling are better equipped and resourced to heal from their experiences and are less likely to suffer from more acute physical and mental health problems.
Only about 10 out of 100 sexual abuse crimes are reported and 3 of those get to court. Sadly, only one of those is likely to get a conviction.