VANCOUVER EASTSIDE MISSING WOMEN
Combating violence against women
Documentary tells the story of Dawn Crey, one of the 60 women who went missing from the Downtown Eastside
Thursday, March 08, 2007
Unlike most other documentaries, Finding Dawn wasn't created to be shown on TV. Director Christine Welsh knew that despite being a mass audience, TV is usually experienced individually. Welsh didn't want viewers to feel isolated and powerless after watching an emotional film about missing women in Western Canada.
Instead, Welsh intended for her film to be seen in small groups so that afterwards, people could talk and share their stories.
She saw Finding Dawn as a catalyst to help combat violence against women.
"We made it to be used -- to affect change," Welsh said. "I believe that the way to do that is to show it together with people."
On Monday, Welsh got another opportunity to show her film in a unique group setting. She was part of a screening in the Dag Hammarskjold Library in the United Nations in New York as part of the 51st Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Welsh was at the screening along with Janice Acoose, a first nations professor in Saskatchewan, and Bev Jacobs, president of the Native Women's Association of Canada.
Finding Dawn takes its name from the search for Dawn Crey, number 23 among the 60 missing women from the Downtown Eastside. She was one of the People of the River, the Sto:lo from the upper Fraser Valley around Chilliwack. Welsh says Dawn's remains were found on Robert Pickton's farm but there wasn't enough DNA to include her as one of 26 women he's charged with killing.
Welsh takes Dawn's story as a starting point for a journey into the native women who have gone missing or been murdered in Western Canada in communities such as Saskatoon or along Highway 16, the Yellowhead in northern B.C. She interviews the relatives and friends who not only talk about never forgetting those who have been murdered, but of changing attitudes that treat native women as marginalized and disposable.
Finding Dawn is more about the living than the dead and how native women are organizing to combat violence against native women. Going way beyond media stereotypes of native women as victims, it presents the real stories of native women who are actively engaged in making changes on and off reserve.
Finding Dawn won the Amnesty International Film Festival Gold Audience Award at the 10th annual festival in November in Vancouver.
Welsh said from New York that she thought it was important to show the film at a UN event because it brings the issues of indigenous women in Canada to an international audience. She said the lack of any images of indigenous women in a photography exhibit in the lobby of the UN shows just how invisible they are.
"We looked and couldn't find any images of native indigenous women," said Welsh, a Metis filmmaker. "We raised that on the panel in the discussion afterwards. 'You don't see us here.'"
Like many other screenings she's been at, Welsh said the one at the UN was an emotional one for the 60 people who attended -- especially those who didn't know the story of the missing women or of Pickton's trial.
"A film like this is always a hard sell," she said.
"I think the screening will help underscore that this is a really important issue and help in the distribution of the film."
Welsh said in making Finding Dawn, she made a point of including images of men who are helping to make change.
"I have been very moved in a couple of screenings at the Carnegie Centre and in Powell River," she said. "There were these aboriginal men who stood up and said what they needed to do. These men, rather than feeling threatened, felt that they had to be part of the solution."
Finding Dawn is being shown again in Vancouver Sunday at 3 p.m. at the Vancity Theatre at the Vancouver International Film Centre, Seymour at Davie.
Afterwards, Welsh will be part of a discussion along with Fay Blaney, an aboriginal feminist featured in the film, Marlene George, community services programmer at the Carnegie Community Centre and an organizer of the Feb. 14 Women's Memorial March, and University of B.C. assistant professor and media analyst Mary Lynn Young, who is also a contributor to the Feminist Media Project, an attempt to intervene in mainstream media depictions of the Missing Women case in Vancouver.
The moderator will be Dara Culhane, co-editor of In Plain Sight: Reflections on Life in Downtown Eastside Vancouver.
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AT A GLANCE
Vancity Theatre at the Vancouver International Film Centre, Seymour at Davie
Sunday, 3 p.m.
Tickets, $10, available from www.ticketstonight.ca or 604-646-3200.
Ran with fact box "At a Glance", which has been appended tothe end of the story.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007
Updated: August 21, 2016