De l'ombre à la lumière [From Darkness to Light]-a film by Lise Bonenfant-Vidéo Femmes, 2000

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De l'ombre à la lumière [From Darkness to Light]-a film by Lise Bonenfant-Vidéo Femmes, 2000
By Lorelei Bourrier and Barbara Bourrier-LaCroix

"In Quebec, one out of every four women claims to have been the victim of physical or sexual violence by her spouse..."

Armed with these statistics, Lise Bonenfant has created a thirty-minute documentary that sends a powerful message. In interviews with four women, we learn about woman's capacity to say no to violence.

The testimony of the interviewees-who range in age from a young woman to one married for 31 years and include one immigrant woman and one native woman-confirms that women can break out of the cycle of domestic violence.

These women are known to us - our friends or neighbours. One woman remained with her husband for 31 years because that is what her generation was expected to do. Another woman's ex-husband threatened, in front of her children, that he would hire a hit man to kill her. A third woman was forced to leave her native land to escape violence. Their road to freedom was facilitated by artistic expression, whether writing, painting or music. Interspersed throughout the film are poems written by a fifth woman, also a victim of violence. These women are proud because they have been able to rebuild their lives and recover their self confidence.

This short film is well adapted to its target audience. The women interviewed effectively transmit the message-in clear, simple language-that it is possible to go from the role of the victim to that of the free, independent women. The first images in the film are the darkest ones: clips from the funeral of a woman who died from spousal abuse. From this darkness, however, the light of hope slowly begins to emerge. The filmmaker evokes powerful emotions such as grief for the dead and the peace offered by nature. It does not dwell on the causes of domestic violence but rather emphasizes how to escape from it. Women's strength and solidarity are key themes in the film. The filmmaker also cites the crucial role of women's shelters.

Technically speaking, the images in the film reflect its thematic progression. Slowly, darkness and shadow give way to brightness and light, representing the hope of women who have been able to escape violence. The video cassette is accompanied by a booklet describing the cycle of violence, warning signs and consequences. Ideas are presented clearly and grouped together logically. The booklet also provides sources of assistance and information (for Quebec only).

The last image in the film evokes the ultimate consequence of violence as well as the hope of seeing an end to violence. As part of the tenth anniversary of the massacre at Montreal's École Polytechnique, five hundred balloons were released, each bearing the name of a woman killed by her spouse, as well as the names of her children. The message is clear-even one balloon is too many.


An emergency plan for domestic violence:

  • Plan what you will need and where you will go in an emergency.
  • Keep your car filled up with gas and keep a second set of keys well hidden.
  • Keep some money hidden to use if you have to leave in a hurry.
  • Set up a code with a reliable person to use over the telephone in an emergency.
  • Plan to bring with you: ID, driver's licence, social insurance and medical insurance cards, bank books, credit cards, prescription drugs and any essential items for children.
  • Keep emergency numbers close at hand, but well hidden.