Asahi Shimbun: Film to become the ray of hope

Asahi Shimbun 10/31/2018

Kibo no hikari ni naru eiga. Korekara mo.  Film to become the ray of hope.

Dome no Tabibito – Traveler to the Dome

Edited by Tetsuaki Otaki

I came to Hiroshima for the screening of my first documentary feature film, Sands of Silence at the Hiroshima City University.  I have been researching sexual exploitation and human trafficking in Asia and America for over 15 years.  This film shows light on that topic and also reveals the sexual abuse I and some members of my family suffered.

I became a journalist in Japan.  I came to Japan in 1990 as a scholarship student of European Economic Community, and became a Tokyo correspondent for El Mundo, Spanish daily newspaper. In October 1994, I covered the demonstration of the first Korean Comfort Women in front of the Japanese Diet in Tokyo. Their story impacted me and inspired me to keep writing on sexual violence and social justice. In 2008, I started to film this documentary film.

I visited the Peace Memorial Park on October 11th. Standing along the Motoyasu river and looking at the A-Bomb Dome, I remembered my father-in-law.  He was a physicist who had been involved in the Manhattan Project.  He was always reluctant to talk about it.  He was suffering.  As I am here in Hiroshima, I do feel we shall never repeat such tragedy.

In a world where nuclear weapons exist, there are two important things in order to pursue peace.  First, we have to realize that peace lies within our heart.  We need to realize the meaning of life and the purpose of life. Second, all the countries should unite and strongly demand denuclearization.

War is caused by those who have lost touch with their heart.  So are perpetrators of sexual violence and human trafficking. About 300 students came to see the film in Hiroshima.  One of them said, “Your film gives me a ray of hope.” I would like to continue to make such films from now on.

Japan’s JOSEI TEMBO Women’s Perspective magazine ~ Review of Sands of Silence

Josei Tembo (Women’s Perspective Magazine) is a feminist publication by the Ichikawa Fusae Center for Women and Governance, based in Tokyo.

Ichikawa Fusae was a Japanese feminist, politician and a leader of the women’s suffrage movement.

Kimiko Kubo is the current editor of Josei Tembo magazine and the Managing Director of the Ichikawa Fusae Center for Women and Governance.https://www.sandsofsilence.org/wp-admin/admin.php?page=wpml-translation-management%2Fmenu%2Ftranslations-queue.php&return_url=%2Fwp-admin%2Fpost.php%3Fpost%3D32978%26action%3Dedit%26lang%3Den%26message%3D6&job_id=171

Ms. Kubo wrote this three-page feature article after viewing Sands of Silence: Waves of Courage at our Cervantes Institute screening in Tokyo in October 2018.

It is remarkable that the article made the cover of their magazine, given the scarce coverage that issues of sexual violence and trafficking have in Japan.

 

Heart-wrenching trip to EL PASO, TX and CIUDAD JUAREZ, MX

A new app and the infatigable work of advocates like Verónica Corchado in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico,  is providing a safety network to the young girls at risk of being raped, kidnapped, trafficked and disappeared everyday while commuting for work or study through what’s been called the **most dangerous corridor in the world.**

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When Liz Chávez of WISE LATINA INTERNATIONAL invited us to present Sands of Silence in El Paso, TX. I tried to obtain permission to visit the detention camps as journalist to no avail. Instead, we were able to take the temperature of a growing anti-immigrant wave that has become a tsunami as of this writing. We were able to visit a sex-trafficking shelter outside of El Paso and were denied entry at an immigrant shelter for fear we too may want to cause harm to the many families seeking asylum.

Sands of Silence Executive Producer Deirdre Roney and I were part of the panel that followed the screening, moderated by Lucía Dura, University of Texas at El Paso professor, included Laura Moreno of **Department of Homeland Security,** who was challenged to answer members of the public questions on the widespread sexual abuse that separated children in custody are experiencing.

We did travel to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico where we met the amazing advocate Verónica Corchado. Veronica has been an organizer and social activist for human rights in Ciudad Juárez, for more than 25 years. In the course of her work, she has been victim to five assaults. Committed to social change in her community, she has developed several platforms and strategies for the elimination of violence against women, including femicides. Among them an app to provide safety to young girls living in Juarez and crossing the border everyday to go to school or work in El Paso.

Veronica is currently **Director of the Municipal Institute of Women in Ciudad Juarez** and founder of the non-profit organization Colectiva Arte Comunidad, an umbrella organization for various projects empowering women through arts and culture. She is co-founder of the Cultural Community La Promesa.

Deirdre and I traveled to a hamlet in rural Michoacán state where we visited the maximum-security shelter for women and children SIN VIOLENCIA.

We are very happy that our visit allowed the shelter to receive a grant from DOLLIES MAKING A DIFFERENCE, a non-profit based in California, after hearing heart-wrenching stories of violence and abuse.

READ HERE Deirdre Roney’s recount of our visit to the maximum-security shelter.

 

On top of the safety app, there are 11 spread out through the most dangerous part of Ciudad Juarez, that are cell phone charging stations with 24 Hrs PANICK BUTTONS to alert police and the Municipal Institute for Women.

In the pictures, Chelo, Verónica Corchado and Deirdre Roney. And in the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez also with Elena Garza of Wise Latina International.

Los Angeles Press Club Screening with Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times

“SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage” is

the LA Press Club’s 2017 SoCal Journalism Awards

Feature Documentary Winner

Exclusive screening of

“SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage”

on April 26

Moderated by Patt Morrison of the Los Angeles Times

Watch the 34 min. video of the Panel Discussion

“SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage” is the LA Press Club’s 2017 SoCal Journalism Awards Feature Documentary Winner. Through the transformation of sex-trafficking survivor Virginia Isaias into an inspiring advocate, “Sands of Silence” celebrates the triumph of the spirit with a call to action to break the chains of sexual violence worldwide.

“In a searing exploration of the sexual exploitation and trafficking of women worldwide, journalist Chelo Alvarez-Stehle also documents her own relatives’ sexual abuse, as well as her own, as they work through their efforts at coping and healing. A moving, poignant documentary of women learning to deal with the physiological and psychological stresses of abuse.” – LAPC 2017 SoCal Journalism Awards Judge.

 

SABLES DE SILENCE: Vagues de Courage

Sands of Silence: Waves of Courage

Un film documentaire sur la violence et le traffic sexuel

SYNOPSIS ~ Après plus de 15 ans consacrés à dévoiler le monde souterrain de l’exploitation sexuelle et du trafic des êtres humains de l’Asie à l’Amérique, la journaliste et réalisatrice espagnole Chelo Alvarez-Stehle revient sur la plage de son enfance, Zarautz, au Pays Basque, pour nous révéler ses secrets de famille. C’est lors de son travail en compagnie des survivantes du trafic sexuel qu’elle fait la connaissance de Virginia Isaias, une jeune mexicaine qui parvient à s’échapper avec sa fille de six mois d’un réseau de prostitution basé à Chiapas et traverse la frontière américaine. Il lui faudra dix ans de dur labeur pour reconstruire sa vie et devenir une ambassadrice contre l’exploitation sexuelle. Inspirée par Virginia, Chelo décide de creuser dans les profondeurs de son sujet de prédilection, la violence sexuelle. Ainsi naît un voyage introspectif qui conduit la réalisatrice à revenir en Espagne brisant un long et douloureux silence personnel et familial sur les violences sexuelles.  

— 86 min. (USA/Espagne, 2016) (Anglais, espagnol, nepali – Sous-titré en français)

Sables de Silence Trailer French


CRITIQUES

“A travers des histoires brûlantes que Chelo Alvarez-Stehle raconte dans son film, elle démontre que les abus et le trafic sexuels sont seulement des exemples dans un continuum. Elle a apporté une importante contribution à la discussion globale sur les attaques sexuelles et la culture du viol. Ce film fait partie du nouveau mouvement des documentaires indépendants qui révèlent d’importantes vérités concernant de terribles secrets que nous gardons en tant que société et le bilan qu’il engendre sur chacun de nous.”    — Prof. Jack Lerner, École de droit University of California, Irvine et membre du Bureau des Directeurs de l’Association de Documentaire internationale.  

“Dans ce documentaire qu’elle a mis 15 ans à réaliser, la cinéaste et journaliste espagnole brise le silence autour du trafic sexuel à l’échelle mondiale, mais également autour des abus subis dans sa propre famille. Un silence qui ne profite qu’aux prédateurs et aux trafiquants.” Lire l’article intégral de «Prostitution et société» magazine ici.

 “Sands of Silence démontre que le traumatisme n’est pas simplement la situation critique de femmes dans des pays lointains. Il peut exister près de chez nous et ne peut être combattu que par de la transparence et de la communication. Les récits contenus dans le documentaire font de ce film une source d’aide pour des individus et des groupes abordant les cas d’abus et de trafic sexuels.” Lire l’interview intégral d’Agnès Films en anglais ici. 

PRÉSENTATIONS

— NATIONS UNIES – New York – High Level Political Forum, 2017

— PARLEMENT EUROPÉEN – Intl. Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, 2017

— Universités au tour du monde: Oxford, Barcelona, Madrid, Yale, NYU, UCLA, Brisbane, Hiroshima                                                                

— Prisons de l’Espagne à la Californie

PRIX

Universities – Feedback

FEEDBACK from Students and Faculty

“I’ve had three sexual assaults and I didn’t know that it was an assault because I wasn’t “raped.” I compared my stories to others and thought that it wasn’t that bad, I had no right to be upset. Also, because there was no gun to my head or a knife at my throat I thought I let it happen, that it was my fault. I beat myself up for not pushing the guy away. I just froze and I interpreted that as I gave the guy permission.  This is why I feel the most important part of Sands of Silence is Virginia validating that your own experience is indeed significant, that it doesn’t not matter exactly what happened physically, there is a psychological impact of violation.”

A 25 year-old graduate after a screening at Yale University

“Sands of Silence is a deeply moving work that will leave no one untouched by its message to put an end to sexual violence. Its secret lies in the self-reflexivity that characterizes the approach of the filmmaker as well as the structure of the film. Chelo skilfully interweaves her own inner journey towards acknowledging the trauma that she herself endured as a result of sexual abuse with the stories of victimized women from around the world. She thereby draws us into the abysses of sexual violence and human trafficking as well as into complex and often painful processes of healing.       The diverse experiences documented by the film also bring home the truth that sexual violence occurs not only in milieus associated with deprivation and crime but right in our own seemingly protected homes and communities.Importantly, Chelo’s non-judgmental stance creates a space for daring questions and open conversations, in the film and beyond. Our discussion after the screening at Hiroshima City University encompassed the situations of victims as well as perpetrators; cycles of violence and abuse and how to stop them; silences in families and communities and how to break them; and, notably, the fact that wartime sexual violence committed in the past may continue to haunt the nation of the perpetrators in the present. I have seldom seen our students so attentive and wholeheartedly involved.” 

Ulrike Woehr, Gender Studies Professor, Hiroshima City University, Japan

“Please help me. I was sexually abused by my physical therapist. He convinced me he had to touch a point in my vagina to cure my shoulder problem. I told my mother and she went to confront him but he denied anything of that sort. I want to report him but I don’t dare…”

An 18 year-old Journalism freshman

“Thank you for screening The Sands of Silence for my class on psychological trauma. It was a powerful and impactful experience. As several of the students pointed out, it made the topic of psychological trauma, which we have spent the last 6 months studying from a theoretical and clinical viewpoint, come alive. The film portrayed a chilling picture of trafficking on women and child victims. But it also showed how common sexual abuse is, and how it can take a seemingly subtle form, yet still have long term effects on a person’s view towards relationships, themselves and their role in the world. This is a rampant problem internationally, and your film helps to bring awareness to this problem. I know that the experience of seeing the film will remain vivid for my students as they embark on their careers as trauma therapists.” 

Ellyn Goldstein, MS, LMFT, Adjunct Faculty, Psychological Trauma, California Lutheran University

“Sands of Silence: Waves of courage takes us into an often invisible secret world where women are enslaved and sexually trafficked. A perilous world which can often seem far away and beyond relief. However, the director Chelo Alvarez-Stehle shows us that human sex trafficking is but one step away from sexual and domestic abuse that infiltrates all areas of society. This film compels us to confront the secrets, venues and patterns that make sexual violence possible. While this film is challenging, it is also filled with hope. That survivors of any level of sexual abuse deserve a voice and a chance to heal and no matter what part of society we inhabit we can be a part of the solution. And indeed the human spirit is triumphant.”

Cynthia V. Duarte Ph.D., Director, Center for the Equality and Justice, Visiting Assistant Professor of Sociology, California Lutheran University