As the camera pans across the impressive Chicago skyline, without prior knowledge of the subject matter you could be forgiven for thinking this is going to be a documentary about the lives of those who work in the skyscrapers, glowing in the morning sun. It’s not.
Dreamcatcher follows Brenda Myers-Powell as she dedicates her life to those stuck in a cycle of abuse, drug use and prostitution. In the words, so well put, on the Dreamcatcher Foundation website: “Brenda tells people how to break the chains of oppression and live up to their greatness.”
From the outset it’s clear Brenda is not a typical care worker. In the film’s first encounter with her, she is being driven around the Chicago streets at night shouting “there’s that ho” from the passenger seat. This isn’t a new aggressive tactic, Brenda is looking for women on the streets, so she can give them condoms. She also invites them into her people carrier to offer counsel. It is at this point you are made aware of the harrowing circumstances that have driven these women to work on the street.
Brenda herself is the product of spending 25 years, from the age of 14, as a prostitute – living through physical, mental, and sexual abuse. Most startlingly of all, she reveals that one encounter left her face physically ripped off. Brenda doesn’t dwell on this, as she doesn’t dwell on anything else that has happened to her. Instead, she lovingly opens up to those in need.
Director Kim Longinotto, having spent time living on the street herself, is an expert in making films about women in extraordinary circumstances – particularly those who have suffered from abuse. It’s almost as though the victims we see in this documentary can sense this. They open up with startling honesty; a group of school girls that Brenda mentors in particular talk with amazing courage about the suffering they’ve faced. To be able to talk about those personal issues with anyone must take a mountain of personal growth – let alone doing so on camera.
What’s great about this film is the way it brings you to understanding a world seldom discussed. From a young age, these women have been denied love, and how they look for this love leads them to dark places. To sum up the power of Brenda’s work, in the words of a woman she helped in prison: “My life was black. My soul was black. My heart was black, but now I have life.”
Dreamcatcher is released nationwide on 6th March 2015.
Watch the trailer for Dreamcatcher here: