In the short film In-Visibles, eight African women revisit the violence they have endured, the abandonment, discrimination, and their journey towards redemption for a free and autonomous life, with the help of other women. Violence, as we know, can be physical, sexual, economic, psychological, or marginalization. However, when a support network is created, one can break free and begin a real life.
For us, the starting point is storytelling, shedding light on the stories of invisible women, so they can serve as examples and testimonies of resilience. The film is currently distributed by Vatican News in four languages and has already received five awards at international festivals, with nominations in another ten.
How did In-Visibles originate?
For us, a documentary always begins with a story, with an exchange of narratives with friends or acquaintances active in some corner of the world to change what doesn’t work in society or in someone’s life. For In-Visibles, it was an encounter with Maria Lia Zervino, who was then the president of WUCWO-UMOFC and the World Women Observatory. . The meeting immediately turned into a project and a programme to build a major awareness and advocacy campaign, “Invisible No More.” In-Visibles can be realised thanks to a WUCWO project with the Hilton Foundation to give visibility to women and nuns generating change in Africa.
We chose to tell the story of eight women and their liberation from various forms of violence in Togo and Ghana, two African countries with the same population but different languages.
Our assistant director is from Togo, Sister Eleonora Agassa, who is studying to become a producer and communicator. The screenplay is by Marianna Beltrami, cinematography by Sebastiano Rossitto, assisted by Andrea Morghen. Deana Walker assists Sister Eleonora in local production. An international crew with many perspectives, but united by the same passion.
We travelled during one of the hottest times of the year, with the harmattan blowing strongly and hot, covering everything in a thin layer of red sand. We were welcomed by the songs of the Sisters of Providence, along with the Sisters Of Mary Mother Of The Church. These congregations work side by side with the women of the World Association of Catholic Women. They stand by the most vulnerable, walking together on the path to freedom from violence.
Stories of Women from Violence to Freedom
We visited various regions and collected the testimonies of Agnes, a reflexologist and single mother of Benedicta, a tetraplegic girl who is about to earn her second degree in psychology; Christine and Rebecca, young single mothers abandoned by their husbands who are now bakers; Noeline, who was abused by her husband and is now training for economic independence; Dorcas, who founded an orphanage for 27 street children; Mama Sotondji, a widow with seven children who owns a small shop; and Eya, impregnated by her school teacher and now a seamstress serving other women in need.
It’s not easy being there with the camera on, facing women with such powerful stories. We have to create an atmosphere of trust and provide the protagonists with the opportunity to tell their stories without judgment or hindrance. For them, it’s a great test of courage. The most challenging moments? The long silences enveloped in tears.
What Can We Do?
One might feel powerless in the face of so many stories of women and violence. But each of us can do something concrete to help women on the path to freedom. For us, it means going back home and spending months in editing, revisiting every tear a thousand times. Alberto Beltrami also assisted us with a touching soundtrack. And then Sister Bernadette, whose excellent work in translations and broadcasting help our film come to life.
Just taking half an hour to watch the film is a first form of assistance; getting informed and being aware is the first step. You can join the Invisible No More campaign and become ambassadors. Or you can help concretely, as a couple of friends did after watching the film: they adopted the entire orphanage. You can also organize gatherings with friends and present the film, start conversations, and provoke questions. For those on a spiritual journey, prayer becomes important, and on February 8th, we can join the World Day of Prayer Against Trafficking.
Every small gesture counts; do your part!