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August 9, 2022

Silent films get a voice. 7 victims of domestic violence break silence and dub silent films to tell their story

A Romanian woman is the victim of domestic violence every 30 seconds. These are the harsh statistics. More worrisome is the fact that, due to fear, far too few women talk, and even less ask for help, because their aggressors dominate them psychologically and most of the time isolate them, driving them away from family, friends and all those who could help them.

Just like very many women who are victims of domestic violence choose to remain silent, the violence in certain silent films has also remained silent for approximately 100 years.

Scenes of domestic violence can be seen in famous silent films made by Charlie Chaplin, Rupert Hughes and many other film directors of the 1920s. And because approximately 100 years have passed since they were made, these silent films can be used by the public for non-commercial purposes starting on 1 January 2019.

ANAIS, a non-profit association who supports the victims of domestic violence and claims that “shutting up won’t make it better,” has used scenes from these silent films to launch the “Non-silent Voices” campaign. “Non-silent Voices” is more than a campaign, it is a cinema project in which 7 victims of household violence break silence and dub silent films, giving voices to the characters, for the first time after so long. The campaign’s objectives are two-pronged: encouraging more women, victims of domestic abuse, to break silence and contact the ANAIS Association for help; collecting funds for the first and only emergency around-the-clock shelter in Bucharest, opened by the ANAIS Association for the victims of domestic violence. At this moment, the emergency shelter is about to be closed in two months’ time, due to lack of funds.

The stories recounted in the film present different types of abuse, from psychological to economic and sexual abuse and even attempted murder. Women physically assaulted and gasping for air, husbands or lovers who end up in jail or wander freely around town, broken families, children who witness tragedies. The victims who found the courage to speak recount their own life experiences in order to inspire other women who are going through similar experiences to seek help.

The “Non-silent Voices” film has approximately 40 minutes and is divided into 7 chapters. The moving pictures of each chapter are taken from 7 different silent films.

“A Woman of Paris,” directed by Charlie Chaplin – 1923

“Our Hospitality,” directed by Buster Keaton and John G. Blystone – 1923

“Flaming Youth,” directed by John Francis Dillon- 1923

“Safety Last!”, directed by Fred C. Newmeyer and Sam Taylor- 1923

“Souls for Sale,” directed by Rupert Hughes- 1923

“Where the North Begins,” directed by Chester M. Franklin- 1923

“Scaramouche,” directed by Rex Ingram- 1923

The film was screened at the Elvire Popesco cinema theatre on March 6, in the presence of the press and of Monica Barladeanu, the ambassador of the “Non-silent Voices” campaign.

Monica Barladeanu, actress: “Often, mothers who are victims of domestic abuse remain in this situation, believing they do not have the right to deprive their children of the presence of two parents in their life. I am the child who preferred, and voted, to have two separated parents happier being away from one another. In the absence of early psychological counselling, the child who witnesses such acts of physical or verbal violence has real chances to become a future adult who abuses in their own turn, or a victim who lives their life on their knees. I have taken a step forward to talk about that part of our life which we prefer to keep locked away, because it does not matter how high an office you hold, how famous you are, or how admired you are by people who do not know you… domestic violence, in all its forms, does not discriminate.”

Ioana Mischie, film director: “For me, the ‘Non-silent Voices’ project is about courage – some women’s courage to tell their story despite the trauma they suffered, their courage to stop tolerating abuses, their courage to reinvent themselves after horrible moments. We want the project to become an educational, social and cinematographic manifesto that can change the attitudes of people and that can eventually end up cancelling out domestic violence cases in the long run.”

Ioana Zamfir, Creative Director, Cheil Centrade (project partner): “Silence is, many times, a good thing, but certainly not in this case. What we have managed to do is reinterpret content which, dubbed, makes us see certain things. So as to no longer spend another 100 years in silence when it comes to domestic abuse.”

Carmen Nemes, President, ANAIS Association: “Through the ‘Non-silent Voices’ campaign, we want to give confidence to abused women, to assure them that someone is here to listen to and support them. The ANAIS Association has specialists dedicated to their activity. However, the shelter for the victims of domestic violence needs financing. The shelter provides victims – women and children – with housing, food, medical consultation and treatment, psychological counselling, legal counselling, social counselling and guidance, and vocational counselling, but, most importantly, they receive confidence from those who are trying to find a solution for each of them.”

The full film, with its 7 stories, can be seen on www.vocinetacute.ro, where all details on the cause and donations can be found.

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