________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 13 . . . . March 1, 2002

cover Donna's Story.

Doug Cuthand (Director). Jerry Krepakevich (Producer).
Montreal, PQ: National Film Board of Canada, 2001.
50 min., VHS, $39.95.
Order Number: C9101 025.

Subject Headings:
Teen age prostitution.
Indians of North America-Drug Abuse.

Grades 10 and up / Ages 15 and up.

Review by Joanne Peters.

** /4

The front cover of the case containing the video of Donna's Story depicts a still-young Aboriginal woman, standing next to chain-link fence. Turn it over, and the liner notes state this is "an intimate portrait of a fiercely determined survivor, ... a Cree woman who left behind a bleak existence on the streets ... [and] has re-emerged as a powerful voice counseling Aboriginal adults and youth about abuse and addiction." And what a story it is! By the age of 34, Donna Gamble has given birth to six children and has two grand-children; an ex-prostitute and drug addict, she started "fixing" at age 17. Throughout the course of the video, we follow a series of life-events which happen with astonishing rapidity: her wedding (complete with fairy-tale princess-style white wedding gown), her mother's graduation from a counseling program, and Donna's daughter's giving birth to her latest grandchild, all of which are inter-spliced with pictures and recollections of her past. Life has been tough for Donna, her mother (also a former prostitute), and her sons and daughters. Nevertheless, these women are survivors, with a capital "S," and it is difficult not to be impressed by their courage and honesty. Donna is engaging, insightful, and gutsy. If nothing else, viewers of this video will not soon forget her demonstration that condoms are "one size fits all" items. Yes, her marriage fails, and her husband, Joe, leaves, but Donna bounces back, not unhurt, but strong enough to understand the reasons why it happened. Donna's Story is no fairy tale: it is the real story of many abused women who find themselves with few resources and fewer choices. That they find the strength to reach deep within themselves to re-create themselves is a testament to the closeness of family ties and the power of their community to accept and embrace them.

     I was truly caught up in the watching of this video - Donna Gamble really is an extraordinary woman, and her story is compelling. Still, I couldn't really find an immediate curricular fit: the language of the video is gritty (to put it mildly), but that's not the issue. Clearly, it's a story for mature viewers (upper grades of senior high school), and might have a place in a sociology, native studies, or women's studies programs, as well as special resource centers or libraries which offer support to women dealing with issues like those of Donna and her family. I'd caution previewing and careful assessment as to how it might be used before acquisition.

Recommended with reservations.

Joanne Peters is a teacher-librarian at Kelvin High School in 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