After a 30-year career of making observational documentaries about women in difficult situations around the world, British director Kim Longinotto is having a moment. “Dreamcatcher,” her latest film and her fifth feature documentary to screen at the Sundance Film Festival, won the Director Award (Documentary World Cinema) at the festival.
“Astonishing in its intimacy and wrenching in its emotional rawness, ‘Dreamcatcher’ captures moments of such startling pain and anguish so well it’s a miracle that a camera-person was sitting close by to record it,” wrote Anthony Kaufman for Indiewire.
The multi-award winning Longinotto will receive the 2015 Robert and Anne Drew Award at DOC NYC Film Festival tonight, just a day after she was nominated for Outstanding Achievement in Direction by Cinema Eye Honors. Jill Drew, the general manager of Drew Associates, who helped select the recipient, said, “Kim has trained her lens with a graceful touch on some of the most heartbreaking stories of women around the globe. By letting those stories unfold naturally, Kim lets the viewer feel what it’s like, to feel our shared humanity.”
READ MORE: Watch: Exclusive Trailer for Kim Longinotto’s Sundance-Bound Doc ‘Dreamcatcher’
Meanwhile, SundanceNow Doc Club is currently featuring a digital retrospective of her work.
“Dreamcatcher,” Longinotto’s first film to be shot in the United States, follows Brenda Myers-Powell, a former Chicago prostitute whose Dreamcatcher Foundation fights to end human trafficking and to prevent the sexual exploitation of at-risk youth.
In cinema vérité-style, “Dreamcatcher” treats its subjects with the utmost of respect and grants them room to tell their own stories in their own words. Without hitting the viewer over the head with a message, the film presents a powerful vision of young girls in unbelievably difficult situations. Though their stories are unbelievably bleak, the film isn’t at all. In fact, with Myers-Powell’s charismatic and open-hearted presence, “Dreamcatcher” is uplifting and hopeful.
Showtime Networks acquired the rights to the film before its premiere at Sundance. Indiewire spoke to Longinotto in advance of the film’s screening at DOC NYC.
One of the things I really love about her, and there are so many things I love about her, one thing I really value is that she’s come out of something really tough that a lot of women would come out of and then put the past behind them and deny it. Brenda never does that. She never pretends to be what some would call “respectable” or like she’s part of some privileged class.
That’s how she gets to the girls [she mentors]. She’s constantly thinking of herself as them and identifying with them and I think that’s so brilliant. It’s a kind of deep honesty, and at the same time, when she’s in the car towards the end of the film and she’s saying, “It takes a lot to put this person together every morning and sometimes I have panic attacks and sometimes I feel I can’t cope,” she’s in recovery. When you’re in recovery, you’re never safe or better, you’re always aware that you’re on a journey and that you’re never in a safe place. You always have to put effort into being a survivor. I loved that she brought the audience into that.
She doesn’t pretend to be something she isn’t. She lets us see everything. We’re in the bathroom, she’s naked putting her eyelashes on and putting her hair together, putting this gorgeous diva-like beauty together. We see it all and she’s taking us in with that wonderful Brenda fearlessness.
I think you make the films that reflect the person that you are and Nick is a little scamp, I love his scampishness. He’s got this huge sense of fun. He’s mischievous. I think our two films have huge similarities, but we were saying last night, they’re hugely different and they reflect the sort of people we are. Nick’s is a thriller. It’s an investigation and it’s a very angry political film with a big P. Mine is a more emotional, personal, exploratory film that is very, very different. I adored “Grim Sleeper” when I saw it and I loved that it exposes things in that way. Ever since “Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer,” Nick has been furious about so many things and I think that strain goes through the films and I think that’s what makes them so wonderful. He knew he wanted to find out all sorts of things. In my films, it’s very much more people taking me on this journey and getting really really close into people’s lives.
You see it happening as we’re filming and that is because we made a joint decision that we were going to go through with this and we were going to do something together and it was worth doing. They took the opportunity to say what they had hidden. There was a huge sense of relief. I was crying in that scene! Not because I felt upset, but because I was so proud of them and because of the relief. It was such a brilliant thing to do and one of the girls said to me afterwards, “I hope it helps other girls in my position. I hope it helps other girls to speak out because I feel so much better now that I talked about it.”
READ MORE: SundanceNow Doc Club Announces Retrospective in Honor of Kim Longinotto