Just Films Series: Audrie & Daisy

By: Reneé Gasbarre

September 13th marked the beginning of the second season of the Just Films series, kicking off with a showing of the Netflix documentary Audrie & Daisy. “Just Films,” according to its website, “is a collaboration of five organizations in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania committed to women, girls, gender equality, and social justice,” that uses film to encourage “conversation about social, political, and economic change.” Gwen’s Girls, the Women and Girls Foundation, the Women’s Law Project, YWCA Greater Pittsburgh, and the Chatham University Women’s Institute work together to involve the community in an open dialogue while “we pursue equality together.”
Moderated by Dr. Kathi R. Elliot, the night began with an introduction to the year and gave a brief trigger warning for some of the content in the film, noting there were two counselors present in case anyone needed to talk.
Audrie & Daisy focused on the sexual assault of two young women, Audrie Pott and Daisy Coleman, and how the events unfolded afterwards through interviews, social media, and police investigations. It wasn’t graphic by any means, but it did feature some explicit language and descriptions that may have made some viewers uncomfortable. There was a seamless translation between animation and live action to conceal the identities of two men related to the Audrie Pott case and to illustrate details given by Daisy Coleman about the night of her assault, a stylistic choice that I haven’t seen used in such a way before. It wove together stories and points of view from family members, friends, victims, and various people who were not directly involved with the case.
A fair amount of the documentary followed the way social media, specifically Facebook and Twitter, impacted the aftermath of the assaults. Completely unconnected people spread the stories around, throwing in harsh opinions and in some cases, accusations toward the victims themselves. The absolute magnitude of all the hate drove Audrie to suicide just eight days after she was sexually assaulted, and sent Daisy into a deep depression for several years of her life. It concluded with Daisy and other girls finding their voices to speak out about their experiences and regaining their happiness. Despite the many emotions voiced throughout it, the film itself remained relatively objectiveit showed different viewpoints for the different stories and didn’t paint anyone in any sort of light.
The camera angles were decisive, the music was neutral in tone (which helped keep the objectivity), and it had a thoughtful balance of emotionally charged scenes and serene landscape shots so there was never too much emotion. It was original and just plain cool to look at. It was well-organized and I found myself easily absorbed in the stories. There was, I noticed, this feeling of oneness throughout the audience; we all reacted to the film together. I also appreciated the decision to use subtitles and that there were counselors provided for anyone who needed them. The panel afterwards was a smart addition to the viewing. Since we usually exit movies in a sort of haze as we transition back to the real world, it helped to have a discussion so that we could let out the thoughts running through our heads and give the event a feeling of closure.
We transitioned to the panel discussion as soon as the credits finished rolling. It featured Nathaniel “Natty” Berry, José Garth, Elizabeth Miler, and Megan Zurasky. They started by introducing themselves, talking about their work and what they thought of the movie, followed by a short Q&A with members of the audience. They discussed the different aspects of today’s rape culture: including racism, homophobia, compulsory heterosexuality, and the toxicity of our strict gender norms. Garth brought up some of his work focusing on men’s attitude toward rape culture, and that there’s this “common theme” of actually needing to teach people how to properly communicate consent. It was pointed out and made clear by Audrie & Daisy that it’s important for those who work in rape prevention to keep up with technology in order to promote effective legislation that provides protection and justice.
It’s important to be knowledgeable about the happenings and the problems of our world, no matter who you are or what you care about. We have to understand our flaws before we can fix them, and attending events like this is a great way to do that. It’s something I recommend everyone check out at least once this year, even if it’s just to watch an interesting documentary. The next showing in the Just Films series will be Southwest of Salem, on October 18th. Hope to see you there!