Dreamcatcher, the Showtime documentary that airs March 27, 2015 (9 p.m. ET/PT) surprises you from the start. The darkness of the Chicago streets where there are prostitutes at work, is pierced by the voice of Brenda, someone we will get to know much better, yelling out, "Hey, do you need condoms?"
You heard that correctly. And the casualness of this utterance may be part of the take away from the often-painful experience of watching this film. This is no easy going acceptance of life on the streets, but rather an act of passion about the dignity and worth of these women, their bodies -- all aspects of each of them. Brenda knows, and teaches the viewer by example, that there is no preaching or threat that will make these people decide what they often experience as an impossible choice and not even a choice at all.
As a secular person, I have to say that this film comes very close to feeling sacred, also because no aspect of the truth is forbidden and no human being is pushed out or treated as unworthy if he or she is even minimally open to contact. I felt an empathy running through the attitude towards all of the people involved, the abusers who were once abused, as well as the victims who also had victimized. There is the story of Fancy, the once upon a time pimp who is now helping this cause together with Brenda -- Fancy who needs and deserves that set of teeth! It is all moving and real.
This film helps the cause and causes of human trafficking but to my mind, what it also does is humanize the persons we are often too quick to judge. It hits home deeply about what some of us have known only on an intellectual level, and some of us may have fought against: that children are fragile and need protection and safety, that most sexual abuse occurs close to home. It shows us that people of all ages can be open to help and to caring, and in particular to the gutsy honesty and welcoming kind of caring that Brenda and her staff bring to the table.
This is not about the star Brenda, okay not only; there are people working with her and for this cause, people who are teaching those who were abused that it is not their fault and that it never was. This is no hate mongering film either, since there is the effort on the part of the Dreamcatcher Foundation to embrace the family systems, and never to leave the parents who may have been abusers themselves, high and dry without support.
The psychiatrist Harry Stack Sullivan said we are all more human than otherwise. Carl Jung told us about the shadows that exist in all of us, that are the parts we hide for shame or fear and then wind up projecting onto others. I tend to work on the side of integrating emotions, as a human necessity, but this film made me feel it as deeply as ever. Of course it's one thing to know at the surface and another thing for that knowledge to start running deeper.
Prostitution -- another thing I learned from watching the movie -- can be an addiction. In fact, something I am learning from living, is that many of what we do and believe can be an addiction when it provides the only reliability we know.
I'd like to make some suggestions for the watching of this movie, as just some things to consider. We give warnings about what age group should watch a given movie, but we don't always attend to how a movie might affect any of us, barring age considerations. For me this is not a day at the beach, cocktail in hand. It is not a somber horror show that will depress and suffocate the bejesus out of you, either. However it will move you; at least I think it has a good chance to do so.
Prepare not only to want to help, but to be helped. The humanity and resilience you will see from some of the saddest people you will meet here, will inspire you. But at the same time, don't expect to get off that easy, since meeting them might be transforming and humbling. You may have to question criminalizing prostitution, as it is questioned in the film: why would we in fact be punishing people who are trapped and as is repeated over and again, are merely surviving the best they can? You might consider how much we owe to children all around us so as to make sure they don't get left to crumble at the side of the roads of life. Which means that if human life is sacred at all, it is for all of us, and those of us who have more to spend may need, yes I'm repeating, to share.
A propos of sharing, Dreamcatcher seems unique in that it is in part an expose about a problem, or part of a problem, but at the same time it's a tender tribute to each and every person in the film. And at the same time it can remind us as viewers that we all need people in our lives who can receive us into their hearts with more gentleness than many of us are used to. This humanizing thing--this walking in another person's shoes and knowing how he/she got where he has gotten--is no small thing. It can change those who give, those who are given and those of us who are witnesses.
So enjoy the film, and let me -- or someone else -- know what you think and how you feel after it. And maybe we can talk about how to make what's in this movie more a part of our lives. You know, if not all together, then somehow.