Landmark Forum Graduate Ellen Snortland recently produced and directed a documentary based on her book “Beauty Bites Beast”. The film will be screening this weekend at the Montreal Film Festival. We asked her to share about her journey to producing the film and we are glad she obliged.
by Ellen Snortland
Little did I know, when I went on a 2005 Hunger Project trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, that an outcome of the journey would be a movie! Beauty Bites Beast, the name of my new feature-length documentary based on my book of the same name, got its birth from a friendship I made while in Oaxaca on a fact-finding mission with 11 other veteran Hunger Project investors.
Fred Ouweleen, a fellow HP investor and Landmark Forum graduate, and I quickly hit it off. During our conversations, we discussed our shared commitment to the idea that the empowerment of women is essential to solving so many global A-list problems. And yet, around the world women and girls continue to be under-fed, under-educated and under-represented at almost every level of family, society, and decision-making, even though international relief agencies know that female participation in these matters is crucial.
One reason we were in Oaxaca was that two villages there had turned their economies around when they focused on the Hunger Project core values regarding the literacy and numeracy of women. Those tenets are time-tested after decades of experience on the ground in India, Africa, and Mexico, proving that the education of females yields great results for everyone, obviously including men and boys. The Hunger Project and its members have long promulgated the partnership of women and men together rather than one gender dominating the other.
In 2006, a year after we returned from Oaxaca, I got an email from Fred. The gist of the message was that he’d read my book Beauty Bites Beast, and it made perfect sense to him. He now felt it was important to address women’s fear of men to take more ground in solving not only hunger but significantly increasing female leadership in the world. “What would it take to have you come to Mexico and provide an IMPACT Women’s Basics self-defense training course to the women who work for me at my PacMin factory in Tijuana?” Wow! What an astounding email! I told Fred that, as long as I could videotape the classes for a possible documentary sometime down the road, I would coordinate the project and make it happen.
The classes at PacMin eventually became the spine of our movie, but by no means the entire story of Beauty Bites Beast. I didn’t want people to think that violence against women and kids is just a Mexican problem. It’s a global family problem that will only be solved when all of us — women, men, girls and boys — come together to say, “Enough!” How global is this problem? The World Health Organization says that 1 in 3 women worldwide experiences a sexual assault at some point in their lives; they also say that most of these crimes are under-reported. The after-trauma of assault impacts society; fear of violence keeps women from stretching into their natural capacities and talents.
Thus, the “story” of Beauty Bites Beast is not about a particular person but about the actual transformation of women who learn how to set emotional, verbal and —pardon the expression, when push comes to shove — physical boundaries. Every creature on earth has a boundary: roses have thorns, for goodness’ sake! Even so, many of us have convinced ourselves that self-protection doesn’t belong in the “menu” of female attributes. Balderdash! Beauty Bites Beast takes on that misguided set of beliefs and flips them on their head, not only with Mexican factory workers but with Kenyan “grannies,” university students, housewives and executives from all over the world. http://tinyurl.com/BBB-Trailer-2016
Right now, Beauty Bites Beast is at the film festival stage. We were one of eight feature documentary films, selected out of thousands of submissions, to premiere at the prestigious 40th Montreal World Film Festival that runs from August 25 through September 5. As the writer, director, and producer of our film, I have envisioned it as part of a triad of movies that will transform the conversations we currently have about ending the systemic epidemic of violence against women. The other two points of the triangle are Kirby Dick’s documentaries The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground. I long to have Beauty Bites Beast join the conversation those films are engaged with.
To that end, we are thrilled to be included at the MWFF and look forward to having our film available to the general public soon. We will be shopping for a distribution company while we are in Montreal.
You often hear around the Landmark Forum the phrase: “having a world that works for everyone, with no one and nothing left out.” Clearly, leaving women out on a systemic basis has not worked for them personally, and actually doesn’t work for anyone in the long run. What we’ve seen is when women and girls learn to say “No” to unwanted behaviors and back that up if necessary, we all benefit.
If you’re even close to Montreal or simply want to be unreasonable, come up and see us! Ken Gruberman and Deborah Harnett Kennedy (key members of the production team who are also Landmark Forum graduates) will be there with me in Montreal.
Beauty Bites Beast
Written and directed by Ellen Snortland; Executive Producer, Yehudit Zicklin-Sidikman
Beauty Bites Beast Screening
Sunday, September 4th 17:50
1230-1248 Avenue Bernard
Outremont, QC H2V 1V6, Canada