In 2013, filmmakers Cecilia Peck and Inbal B. Lessner released Brave Miss World to audiences in hopes of encouraging a global dialogue and ending the silence surrounding sexual assault. The documentary explores the true story of a rape crime survivor, her journey to heal, and the activism that sheds light on the web of shame and secrecy that surrounds sex crimes. The journey begins with Linor Abargil, winner of the Miss World contest in 1997. At 18 years old, and just weeks before being crowned Miss World, Abargil is savagely raped and stabbed by her travel agent while in Milan. Through sheer determination and quick wit, Abargil is able to convince her attacker that she will not tell anyone what happened, and thus, begins her heroic journey.
Equally courageous, and with the support of her family and friends, Abargil takes the stand to convict her attacker, bringing her story from the courtroom to the rest of the world. Watching the film, it is impossible not to feel her pain and anguish. She is isolated in a world of profound sadness, and ironically, this isolation is shared by many, if not all, of the survivors featured in the documentary.
Although frustration over the invisibility of rape survivors is palpable, Brave Miss World spurs a greater conversation about the culture of victim blaming and shaming that often leads to silence. Abargil’s openness serves as an example for other survivors that healing can happen through speaking out and sharing personal stories.
Brave Miss World creates a global discourse around rape and its impact on women, especially regarding our personal relationships as partners, wives, and mothers. During her interviews with women from around the world, from college students to famous actresses, Abargil shows us that no person is immune to sexual violence, abuse, and rape. While the experiences of rape survivors can lead to silence and shame, her hope is that through sharing her story and fighting for justice, she can encourage others to speak out and not allow these crimes to go unpunished. Although, Brave Miss World focuses on a tough subject, there is an inspiring collectiveness that lifts the spirit, leaving viewers feeling empowered.
This documentary does not shy away from the deeper and more complex conversations surrounding rape and sexual abuse with respect to the various cultural identities we hold. While these stories are powerful, there is still room to further explore the issue of rape amongst women of color, low socioeconomic communities, various religious groups, and so on and so forth. Despite the importance to provide a forum for these stories to be shared, we must also acknowledge the various intricacies of our identities and the role they play in the manner that we share our stories. Ultimately, Abargil connects all survivors of sexual abuse under the premises that “we all have the same pain, no matter where we’re from.”
For more information on Linor Abargil, the #iambravecampaign, or to submit your own story of resilience, strength, and survival, please visit www.bravemissworld.com. You can also check out Brave Miss World on Netflix.
Review by: Bulaong Ramiz
To read more from Bulaong, check out her fun and inspiring blog.