Review: Private Violence (Hill, 2013) – Sundance 2014

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

Courtesy of the Sundance Institute

I tend to place documentaries into two categories: issue-focused and person-focused. If The Green Prince and The Overnighters were person-focused, then I would classify Marmato and Private Violence as issue-focused films (Web Junkie is kind of an in between one for me). That’s not to say that issue-focused films don’t cover the stories of individuals, but the individual story sometimes ends up subsumed to the overarching issue being explored.

Private Violence investigates how domestic violence is handled by police and in our court system by following activist Kit Gruelle and domestic violence survivor Deanna as she pursues a case against her abuser in federal court. In the process, the film highlights the ways in which our “justice” system continually and maddeningly fails battered women. It also pushes back against society’s tendency to blame victims of domestic violence for the abuse they suffer, a tendency that Gruelle points out is manifest in the seemingly innocuous question, “Why doesn’t she just leave?”

All in all, it was a well-rounded, nicely produced, illuminating movie–everything I expect from a professional documentary, but not much more. Still, an important issue to examine.

* * *

From a helpful flyer passed out during the Q&A session:

Things YOU can do
There are many things you can do to help women and children be safe in your community. Abusers rely on keeping her socially isolated, removed from family and friends: don’t be afraid to ask her if she is afraid of her partner. Here are a few simple things you can do:

  • Be aware of your local resources.
  • Volunteer to work on your local crisis line.
  • Help fund raise for your local DV program/shelter.
  • Organize and participate in a court-watch program to monitor how domestic violence cases are handled in your community.
  • Get engaged in the political process.

5 Things NOT to Say to a Battered Woman

  1. You should just leave; I would.
  2. What did you do to make him mad?
  3. Maybe he’s just having a bad day.
  4. He seems like a nice guy to me.
  5. You should just call the police.

5 Things to Say to a Battered Woman

  1. I’m here to listen and support you, not to judge.
  2. Are you afraid of your partner?
  3. You should always feel safe from coercion, intimidation, violence and abuse in your relationship.
  4. Violence in relationships is much more common than you think.
  5. I’d like to help you find some support and resources.


Support This Project
This project seeks to illuminate every aspect of violence against women; draw connections between violence in our homes and violence in our streets and communities; dispel myths and bring everyone together to help end the violence. Your donations will help us complete the project and build the network. Please join us.