| 03.17.2018

Shedding light on local #MeToo stories — Denise Bennett documents local stories in a short film


When #MeToo posts first appeared in October 2017, women and men around the world were awakened to the extent of sexual assault and harassment. Thousands upon thousands of social media users reposted the tag across languages and genders. Denise Bennett, video production, documentary film and photojournalism professor at the University of Idaho, was inspired to take actions beyond a simple “like” or “retweet.”

“I was reading my Facebook, and I was just astounded at the number of women that were sharing #MeToo stories,” Bennett said. “I thought it would be interesting to look at #MeToo stories locally and share them at LUNAFEST.”

LUNAFEST is a national film festival whose mission is to share short films “by, for and about women.” Presented by the UI Women’s Center, Moscow’s LUNAFEST will take place 6:30 p.m. March 6 at the Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre.

Bennett has shown her films at the local LUNAFEST before, but emphasized that her #MeToo documentary stood out as a challenging film for her to make.

“It’s just interview style… we’re just letting the people tell their story,” Bennett said.

The difficulty in film production comes from the interview process rather than from tricky filmography.

Courtesy Photo | Denise Bennett
A screenshot from Denise Bennett’s #MeToo documentary, which premieres March 6, 2018.

“It’s horrible,” Bennett said. “I thought it would be a good idea to look at what has been happening to these women locally, but you’re asking people to share maybe one of the most horrific things that have ever happened to them in their life.”

Bennett said that more than half of the subjects she has interviewed have been raped.

“They’re telling you that story and it’s super difficult,” Bennet said. “I’m really thankful for them, for their bravery. I think the women that I’ve spoken to thus far are really brave for wanting to share their stories on camera.”

Despite the painful and frustrating subject, Bennett said she believes it’s important for women to speak out about assault and harassment.

“I think women are too silent about what’s going on, and culturally we need to change that because it’s not acceptable,” Bennett said.

The importance of standing up for oneself is something Bennett said she hopes her film’s viewers will take away from the experience.

“Don’t be silent. I think oftentimes, even with discrimination, women just brush it off and they don’t say anything,” Bennett said. “We should stand up at the moment when it’s happening, and say ‘that’s inappropriate’ or ‘that’s unacceptable and you can’t treat me that way because of my gender.’”

There is still time to join Bennett’s project and speak out as part of her documentary. While she will need time to edit the interviews together in the end of February before LUNAFEST, Bennett said she is seeking interviews through the first week of February.

Bennett said she is willing to make accommodations for individual circumstances and wants everyone to feel safe sharing their stories with her.

“I am definitely open to lighting people so they’re not visible, or altering voice if they’re not comfortable in that respect,” Bennett said. “They can call me or they can email me. I’m shooting everything in the radio television center here on campus so if they’re around on campus it typically takes about 20 minutes to do it.”

In addition to LUNAFEST, Bennett will be showing her documentary March 26-27 at the Murrow Symposium at Washington State University, and on March 22 as part of Lewis and Clark State College’s Women’s History Month events followed by a panel discussion.

Beth Hoots can be reached at arg-arts@uidaho.edu


Tuesday, March 6

Reception at 6:30 p.m.

Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre

508 S. Main Street in downtown Moscow

Students $5 for film festival only or $8 for reception and film festival

General admission $8 for film festival only or $15 for reception and film festival

Ticket sales start Monday, Feb. 26, 2018 at the Women’s Center, Memorial Gym Room 109. Tickets also available at the door.

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