#DirectedbyWomen: Breaking the silence on sexual violence

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle: Breaking the silence on sexual violence



Recently #DirectedbyWomen had a chance to delve into conversation with reporter and documentary filmmaker Chelo Alvarez-­Stehle about her moving film Sands of Silence: Waves of Courage and the impact it is having on communities around the world. She also shared the surprising direction her work is leading her to explore next. The topic of sexual abuse and trafficking is challenging. It can feel easier to simply look away, but please take time to receive what Chelo has shared and look for the chance to experience her work. Info about upcoming screenings can be found at the end of the post.

DBW: Your documentary Sands of Silence: Waves of Courage takes on such a powerful subject. It’s multifaceted in its approach, dealing with the nexus of sexual abuse and sexual trafficking. And it takes us deep into the complexities of how these forms of abuse impact not only individuals but families as well.  I’d love to hear your thoughts about how the film is resonating with film audiences and the impact it is having.

CA-S: We’ve felt overwhelmed by the cathartic experiences audiences are having. At every screening people of all ages are going deep into their experiences, bringing past or recent memories, identifying them as abuse, calling them by their name, breaking the silence, so much so that we enlist volunteer therapists or psychologists to attend and be ready at the Q&As with their expertise and resources.

That is why we say that Sands of Silence is “the film that inspires you to break the silence on sexual violence.” Many of those people speak up for the first time.

But after touring Europe and the US with the documentary we know that it also goes beyond that. A college freshman at a university in Spain insisted on talking to me after the screening. She had gone to a physical therapist for a shoulder problem. He convinced her, by showing her information on Google, that he needed to touch a point in her vagina in order to cure her. He ended up inserting a vibrator in her vagina. “Finally something clicked for me and I left. My mother did not believe me, and when she finally did, she went to confront him, but he denied everything. Please help me. Now I have nightmares. I don’t even let my dad approach me. And I want to report him but I don’t know how.” I was able to refer her to an association of women lawyers that provides legal pro bono services to victims.

Often it is those closer to us that don’t believe us.


“Prostitution et Société” magazine, France

“prostitution et société” magazine

Paris, France

avril 2018, par Christine Laouénan

Our first review in French, after our Paris sneak preview on March 19th, hosted by Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, at the Luminor – Hôtel de Ville the historic movie theater in Le Marais, the heart of Paris!

Notre premier article en français, après notre avant-première à Paris le 19 mars, présenté par le Centre Audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, au Luminor Hôtel de Ville.

« Lorsque je préparais mon film, les femmes survivantes que j’ai rencontrées se battaient avec une telle énergie contre la traite des êtres humains que j’ai été poussée, à mon tour, à dévoiler ma propre vérité », raconte Chelo Alvarez-Stehle.

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.


Sands of Silence gets TheWIFTS Award


December 10th


(The Women in Film and Television Showcase)

TheWIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards 2017

West Hollywood, California

TheWIFTS Award Jury’s Comment:

“Sands of Silence is a remarkable film, in that through the potency of its storytelling, it exposes the humanitarian issue both on the surface and beneath, of the suffering of individuals affected by this odious crime. The film has embolden others to speak and  to no longer live in the ‘silence’.”

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and Lala Isaias look at TheWIFTS Award estatuette
TheWIFTS host Actress Julie Carmen shows the Award to Sands of Silence character Lala Isaias as Chelo looks. Photo courtesy TheWIFTS – credit: Joshua Deitell

TheWIFTS Foundation was honored to count with talented and celebrated actress Julie Carmen (Gloria Milagro Beanfield War, Windows on the World) as Mistress of Ceremonies for the 10th anniversary of TheWIFTS Foundation International Visionary Awards 2017, celebrating inspirational and outstanding women. These ‘women as individuals’ from around the world will receive Awards for their work in Film, Television and Society.

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle TheWIFTS Award acceptance speech
“Today is December 10th, International Day on Human Rights, and is humbling to receive this Humanitarian award.” Chelo Alvarez-Stehle at TheWIFTS Best Documentary Humanitarian Award acceptance speech. Photo courtesy TheWIFTS – credit: Joshua Deitell

TheWIFTS Mission Statement: To honor outstanding women who continue to “raise the bar” in their respective fields. The Foundation will research noteworthy, unknown or known individuals who have made a difference in their respective communities but have yet to be acknowledged and commended for their extraordinary efforts and positive impact on our society.

Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and several awardees of TheWIFTS Award
Several of the 2017 TheWIFTS Awardees (from left to right): Chelo Alvarez-Stehle, Actress Elizabeth Partnow, Producer Valentina Castellani-Quinn, Avatar Costume Designer Mayes Rubeo, TheWIFTS host Actress Julie Carmen, ADI Director Jan Creamer, Slipaway Director Julia Butler, Didi Ananda Kalika. Photo courtesy TheWIFTS – credit: Joshua Deitell
Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and Virginia Isaias hold TheWIFTS Award porcelain estatuette
Sands of Silence director Chelo Alvarez-Stehle and main character Virginia Isaias.

Agnès Films – Film Review of Sands of Silence | agnesfilms.com

Agnès Films, supporting women and feminist filmmakers recently reviewed, Chelo Alvarez-Stehle’s Sands of Silence, documentary film. The review by Julie Caper Roth, says: “Sands of Silence demonstrates that trauma is not merely the plight of women in far-off lands. It can exist close to home and can only be felled by transparency and communication. The narratives contained within the documentary make this film a helpful resource for individuals and groups tackling the issues of abuse and sex-trafficking.”


RTVE Broadcast

SANDS OF SILENCE: Waves of Courage

Geolocalized broadcast in Spain’s territories on the occasion of the

International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women

RTVE (Radio Televisión Española),

the country’s public television system which counts with the largest audience.

Read below my #MeToo article published in Spain’s daily EL PAÍS on the eve of the broadcast.

“Eran las cinco en punto de la tarde. Y estaba de los nervios. Mientras escribía estas líneas estaba a punto de salir a manifestarme. A punto de unirme al grito unísono: “Basta de agresiones. Respetad nuestro cuerpo”. Estaba de los nervios y trataba de controlar las lágrimas, porque unas horas más tarde, cualquiera podía ver una radiografía de mi vida. Mi vida y la de mi familia, al desnudo. Nerviosa por lo que supone romper el silencio ante millones de espectadores…”

READ FULL ARTICLE "No nos callamos más" Sands of Silence en El País


Broadcast in La Noche Temática

(The themed night), a documentary program that addresses

society, culture and current affairs from different point of views.