A winner at this years Sundance film Festival, for directing in the World Cinema Documentary category; Dreamcatcher (not to be confused with the 2003 Lawrence Kasdan, ‘poo-alien’ movie) is a harrowing look into the world of prostitution. It takes its name from the foundation at the centre of the film, run by former prostitue Brenda Myers-Powell, who now devotes her life to helping women currently working the streets. Primarily made up of first hand accounts from former and current prostitutes; the film goes into disturbing, and often uncomfortable detail about the dark world in which they live. Violence, drug abuse and family problems are a recurring theme, with one woman talking about how she was once stabbed five times, in a very matter of fact way.
What’s perhaps even more shocking though, are the accounts of molestation that most of the people suffered at a young age. One scene inparticular shows Brenda at her after-school programme, where some of the teenagers open up about the sexual abuse they experienced from the age of five upwards. Each story reflects the one before it and is talked about with such candour, that you’re left with a strange sense of twisted normality about it all. However appalling, or touching the stories are though, Dreamcatcher doesn’t go quite as far as I would have liked in exploring the circumstances that can lead to someone ending up in this way of life.
The message seems to be that family life has the biggest impact of all. The majority of the women featured have either been sexually abused by a relative, or been ignored when reporting it. What I would have liked though, is for director Kim Longinotto to look at other potential contributing factors. For instance, is there any coincidence that most of the people are black and clearly come from a poor background? The economic and racial politics are sorely missed, meaning that whilst Dreamcatcher works on an emotional level, it left me with too many lingering questions that I wanted answered.
Arguably, that’s the point. Longinotto seems far more interested in her subjects, as opposed to the subject itself. As the documentary progresses, it becomes more of a character piece, focusing primarily on Brenda, her family life, and her past; all the while exploring what drives her as a person. The importance of her work is clear and inspirational; her sainthood is undeniable; but I don’t think that in itself is enough to make Dreamcatcher wholly satisfying. It’s certainly a well-made, must-see, in the sense that it raises important issues of mental, physical and sexual abuse that a huge amount of women are forced to suffer. If you were hoping for a more substantial glimpse at the wider picture though, then you may just feel a little disappointed.
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