Three Women and A Documentary

March 10th, 2014


“Some things are destined to be — it just takes us a couple of tries to get there.”

― J.R. WardLover Mine

This lovely painting of three women came to me in the 1990’s and I remember wondering if that was me and two other women I hadn’t met yet.   It hung in my living room for years, but when I redecorated, I put it away. When I stumbled across it recently in the basement, I realized that I did meet these women, around 10 years later. And when we met, we had work to do.  And as it turns out, we had a film to make.

I loved the image of these women, dressed up but navigating what seemed to be a difficult and winding climb up a narrow staircase, and navigating that climb in heels. When I saw it again, a couple of months ago, with fresh eyes, the woman in the middle of the group seemed like Kit Gruelle, in her signature purple,  who is the guide, teacher, and advocate in the film “Private Violence”.  Kit is also a survivor, and she became my friend.

kit good one

The woman with the long blond hair reminded me of Cynthia Hill, the director of the film. We are now more than colleagues; we’re friends as well.

cynthia good one

I’d always thought of myself as the woman in the green dress, simply because I liked the dress, I love green, and it looked like something I’d wear.  The painting, by a wonderful  artist named Earline McNeil Larsen, is called “Conspiraling Women”.

I met Kit Gruelle, in Del Mar, California in 2005.   Cynthia Hill came later, in North Carolina. There was a immediate familiarity about both of these women. It was that click that goes off in your head or the shivers that go through your body when something significant happens or is about to happen.   These two mainstays of the “Private Violence” feature film and documentary project stood there talking to me prior to a 2010 fundraiser in Chapel Hill, where Gloria Steinem, one of our early supporters was to speak. Those shivers came on even stronger.  I thought at the time about the power of the number 3 (three women, the triple goddess symbol) and hoped that that unseen power could move this film forward.  At that point, we knew it would take a long time to get the whole thing launched.  And it did.

There were times when it seemed like letting it all go might be easiest.  The other film, “Bully”, that the Waitt Institute for Violence Prevention supported took about two years from start to launch at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2011, and the funding came in quickly once it got going.  That didn’t surprise me, as bullying had become a high profile topic, and that story needed to be told.  I’m glad it was.  But it was a tougher go for “Private Violence”.  That didn’t surprise me either.  The title of the film tells why.  It’s something we still tend to keep in the dark, hidden away.

Along the long path to getting it done, though, more and more earth angels, women and men,  kept appearing showing up at the right time and right place with perfectly timed grants, encouragement, connections and support that  we desperately needed.  I can’t name them all here, but each one provided vital support.

The three of us have been through a lot together, and separately, in the years that it took to complete the story.  We each have been through challenges, both in life and in getting the film to its January Sundance opening.   Cynthia has given birth to two daughters since we all met.  We come from three different worlds, and sometimes meshing those worlds isn’t easy. We laughed together, and cried together, but we’ve stuck together and I’m glad we made it up that narrow and winding staircase in those high heels. We know that at the top of that staircase is another, and another. The film is only a small part of that work so many people do every day, but it felt good to be able to pause, and know that we’d made that first climb.

As I was writing this, I remembered that I had bought two paintings, and went down to the basement and took this shot of the companion piece to “Conspiraling Women”.

triple alliance

It turns out that the name is “Triple Alliance”.  I don’t know who the women in this painting are, but that doesn’t matter.  When I see the title and the image, it reminds me of the alliance of all the women who came together for this. Perhaps the three above symbolize the extraordinary trifecta of three of the women featured- Deanna Walters, Stacy Cox, and Jean Kilpatrick.  They demonstrate the strength of survivors and advocates, both in the film, and in their lives.  Or the piece could stand for the three women who founded Chicken and Egg Pictures, who believed in us at a crucial point.   I don’t know, because there are so many more who over the years found us, joined us, and reached out. Both paintings remind me that women are strong, but even stronger when we come together. We’re stronger yet when we don’t give up on something we need to do or say.  The paintings are both upstairs now, in a favorite room, full of light.  I think they’ll stay there.

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