Sundance Film Review: Private Violence

Posted January 20, 2014 in
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Photo: Rex Miller

Private Violence
Sundance Film Festival
Director: Cynthia Hill

The Sundance Film Guide wrote that Private Violence was shot with "immediacy"—and Cynthia Hill’s introduction to the premiere expressed this as she left us with a ringing truth: By the time the film is over, too many women will have died at the hands of an intimate partner. However, exactly because this topic is critical, I believe a documentary filmmaker has a responsibility to approach it with a kind of patience that will allow the most beneficial and all-encompassing stories to surface in support of the message. Sundance is known for its quality, life-altering documentaries, but Private Violence is not one of them. Interviews, B-roll and evidential photographs make up the film, which lacks a clear, linear line of thought and regurgitates the question, "Why do they keep going back?" without giving an intelligible answer. Though the film begins dramatically in a women’s shelter, where a woman fears for her life as she texts back and forth with her threatening abuser, that woman is quickly forgotten when Deanna shows up to a meeting to help other victims of domestic violence and ends up being almost exclusively the focus of the film as advocate Kit Gruelle tries to get her justice for being kidnapped and nearly beaten to death by her husband. Both as a film critic and as a woman with firsthand experience in the emotional complications and legal hurdles involved in domestic violence, I feel that this film falls short by focusing on one extreme case and failing to get to the root of the issue. Had Cynthia Hill read more feminist theory, spoken to experts across the board and included more survivor stories with a varied group of women and at least a couple of eloquent speakers, this film would be worthy of Sundance. As it is, the film seems quickly pulled together and leans on its shock value rather than providing us with a thoroughly researched piece. Deanna’s story is tragic, but I left the theater feeling angry at the filmmaker for failing to dive beneath the surface of this deeply important issue.

Screenings:

Time: 1.21 3 PM Venue: Yarrow Hotel Theatre, Park City
Time: 1.22 6 PM Venue: Broadway Centre Cinema 6, Salt Lake City
Time: 1.23 9 PM Venue: Temple Theatre, Park City
Time: 1.24 Noon Venue: Sundance Resort Screening Room, Sundance Resort
Time: 1.25 10 AM Venue: Holiday Village Cinema 4, Park City

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