________________ CM . . . . Volume VI Number 8 . . . . December 10, 1999

cover You Can't Beat A Woman!

Gail Singer (Director). Joe MacDonald and Gail Singer (Producers).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 1997.
94 min., 32 sec., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9197 170.

Subject Headings:
Abused women-Video recording.
Violence-Prevention-Video recording.
Family violence-Video recording.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.
Review by Stephanie Yamniuk.

*** /4

This documentary covers many types of abuse (physical, emotional, mental) against women in five different countries: Canada, Russia, South Africa, Japan and Chile. In each story, women's survival is celebrated. The soundtrack is beautiful and accurately fits the mood of each story.
     The movie begins in Canada, as the director of the film is following up on a film she directed 18 years ago. Jeannie Fox was the subject of this documentary, and she talks about how times have not changed; abuse is still a critical issue for women today. The beginning of the film moves back and forth between the documentary created 18 years ago and the present day.

You always hurt the one you love,
The one you shouldn't hurt at all.

You always take, the sweetest rose,
And crush it 'til the petals fall.
Wedding pictures of Jeannie Fox and her husband are shown while this fifties tune plays in the background, pointing out the irony of the words. Jeannie talks about being a single parent and the struggles she's gone through as she fought a custody battle for her five daughters. Jeannie talks about her father's abuse and how she came to believe the things her father and her husband told her about herself. Her brother, now a police officer, was interviewed and stated, "We are the kind of family who stood alone on things." Jeannie's husband, Dave, tries to explain to the director why he abused his wife. "I don't see myself as a violent person. I'm a very timid person inside." The director does a great job of poking fun at, and yet keeping serious, the issues of abuse. At this point in the film, handwritten words, "timid person," with an arrow next it, point to Dave. Rosemary Vodry, then Manitoba's Minister of Justice and Attorney General, is the minister responsible for the status of women. She is interviewed in the Manitoba Legislative Building. "In the past, violence was seen as a family issue, not a criminal act." After the interview, the times that Vodry thanks the film crew and the director are counted, again using handwritten words on the screen: 12, 13, 14, 15, etc.
     One of Jeannie's daughters tries to rationalize what her father did. She, herself, is in an abusive relationship. She talks about once meeting a really nice guy, "almost too nice. It made me sick afterwards. Too nice, rather than normal." Jeannie talks to her daughter; talks about how it hurts her to see her daughter, dealing with the same abusive situation that she did, make the same excuses.
     The director travels to Russia, Japan, Chile, and South Africa to talk to women and men about their perceptions of abuse in their home country. In Russia, we seen scenes of Moscow, the lights of the city, to the tune of "Daddy's Little Girl, to have & to hold, a precious gem is what you are, your mommy's bright and shining star." The director talks to women in a communal shower, naked and laughing. She asks them, "Do men help you with your work?" They all laugh hysterically. She asks them, "Do men use force on their wives?" "No, no," they answer. "People talk about it, but it's in the past."
     There are several scenes of graphic violence, shown to the sound of "nice" fifties music, as well as examples of animals that treat their families with violence. Additionally, short cartoons with violent themes are included. This video is an emotionally intense conversation-starter for young people about the effects of abuse. The resilience of the women stands out brightly, as the various women talk about their experiences and how they have survived.


Stephanie Yamniuk, who has taught Grades 1-12, is currently a freelance writer and works at the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

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Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364