This is the story of remarkable women who, after surviving violence, war and genocide in Africa, are rebuilding their lives and societies, forgiving the killers of their families, adopting and raising orphans, breaking taboos, and redefining what it means to be a woman in their traditional cultures. The film looks at some of the root causes behind the atrocities and how existing matriarchal societies, whose cultural framework and belief systems not only embrace the feminine but see god as female, provide a much-needed peaceful and gender-balanced alternative to the violent, discriminatory cultures that currently dominate most of the world.
The DVD is structured in play-through or chaptered options with four individual chapters: Before Patriarchy;Women on the Frontlines of Violence; Healing, Forgiveness and Peace-Building; Matriarchies, Peaceful Societies and Moving Forward.
Best Documentary Award, Silver Wave Film Festival 2016.
Director's Notes (Colleen Wagner)
In 2006 I travelled to South Africa, my first of many journeys to the African continent. Other countries would follow: Rwanda, Uganda, Ghana, Morocco. I was travelling on a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) grant to research and create a female-centered heroic myth, based on the actual stories of women and girls who had survived trauma.
The Western story narrative tends to be about the male hero. A typical heroic myth tells a story about a male hero who must travel outside his community in order to conquer a demon or enemy. The hero usually slays the enemy and returns home with some boon that delivers his people out of the suffering caused by the enemy. This tale, based on a belief that the enemy is the sole cause of the problem, creates within the literary framework the character of the scapegoat, the 'other' responsible for misfortune. The female in these myths is often the silent voice, the passive aspect in an active male world, or a victim (the 'other'). She is usually, to this day, on the frontlines of violence. Our story narratives provide a framework for our sense of identity within the civilization--our sense of history, cultural expectations, and personal goals.
What I actually experienced in the African countries I visited was women, most suffering the ravages of HIV/AIDS, actively working together toward building peace. They were creating community networks of shared work and caregiving, adopting orpahns, networking to create more just, egalitarian, peaceful and safer societies despite terrible suffering and loss. I found that heroic.
In my travels I also discovered existing matriarchal societies and interviewed women and men. I grew up being told that the world was always patriarchal and violent; that's just how it is. I discovered the lie of that statement. Matriarchies, which are not women ruling men as many would have us believe, are based on egalitarian structures. The social framework is a very different paradigm. It is based on mothering principles: sharing, caring, nurturing, making and keeping peace, unlike the violent and dominating patriarchal principles most of us experience.
The SSHRC-funded project culminated in the creation of a documentary play, The Living, which premièred in Toronto at SummerWorks Performance Festival 2015 to rave reviews; this feature documentary, Women Building Peace (featuring interviews with women survivors about their remarkable work and interviews with women and men in matriarchal societies) and an interactive website currently under construction: http://thelivingplay.ca/site/home.html