Filmmaker and Roxbury native Daniel Laurent wanted to create a movie about what domestic abuse signs look like early on in relationships, before red flags are glaringly obvious and violence escalates.
Now his movie, “Cry For Me,” is premiering at the Roxbury Film Festival, the largest festival in New England that celebrates people of color with 10 days of screenings, workshops and panel discussions. "Cry For Me" will be screening at the Roxbury Film Festival this Sunday at 5:30 p.m. at Hibernian Hall.
The film stars Laurent's wife Leah Nicole, who is a survivor herself, and was inspired by the recent loss of her friend to domestic violence.
“‘Cry For Me’ is about a relationship that is not so healthy and the things that can lead up to domestic violence, sexual abuse-related instances that can occur,” Laurent said. “And I wanted to show very little things that on its surface is not such a big deal, right? But depending on the people that's involved, it can explode into something else that is hard to come back from.”
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Lovern Gordon, founder and president of Love Life Now Foundation, said having those relationship depicted on film accurately shows what domestic abuse can look like in a way that can resonate with teenagers and young adults.
“Too often people find out about what red flags are too late, and that's not what you want. You want people to be in the know about what those things look like,” Gordon said. “To have it actually played out with Leah, the lead, and Daniel behind the film — oftentimes for people that might not look like folks in certain films, this is a film that can be relatable not just to one certain demographic, but to all.”
Fictional depictions of domestic violence don’t always show people of color. While domestic violence was ubiquitous in, for example, Lifetime movies, those films often showed domestic violence as almost exclusively white women.
“It affects everybody across the board,” Gordon said. “As a survivor myself, for anybody that looks like me to be able to depict that is going to resonate with me that much more.”
In playing the film’s lead, she said, she found some healing in her own life.
“Thankfully there were no triggers,” Nicole said. “It was quite the opposite. It felt more rewarding. I felt like I was able to be an inspiration to somebody else, but also to myself and give myself the credit for actually being able to escape my own situation.”
Finding new ways to approach their experience can be empowering for survivors, Gordon said.
“I think a lot of the times when we get to the end of what leaving can look like, it is empowering to know that you're able to take that power back,” Gordon said. “I think with the film itself, anybody that's looking at it, they might be triggered and that's okay, because then you know that it's resonating somewhere within that person to be able to then identify that this happened.”
Laurent, who is from Roxbury, said it feels “bittersweet” to have the film premier in his home neighborhood.
“I love Roxbury, right? Roxbury is a home,” he said. “Unfortunately, the topic is not warm and fuzzy, and it's not like a love story. … But I think it's a reality. And the more I'm going in different spaces and I've been to spaces with Lovern, it's oftentimes victims-turned-survivors who are, you know, talking about their story and almost healing in a communal way.”
He also said he wanted to intentionally speak to people inflicting domestic abuse.
“Obviously, men are abused also. Clearly, right? But I think the numbers are disproportionate to who they're for,” he said. “The most important thing is a dialogue and hopefully the corrective actions that come after watching it. The young men and boys, I want them to see someone who looks like them, who's from where they're from, so we can have a different type of dialogue.”