Noticias Feature Films
Rosanne Pel talks about her film ‘Light as Feathers’

To understand the origin of sexual violence

In my work I’m attracted to human imperfections and to the concrete and inconsistent actions of people. Sometimes the consequences of such actions are innocent, funny. I’m interested, though, in extreme behaviour and in actions of people that are actually harmful. I want to understand them; I want to catch the origins of those actions in my films. I try to think and work from people’s shortcomings, their impotence, their incapacities. I do so because I can identify with them, at least partly. But I also do so because I want to believe that the damage caused by people’s actions can also be healed again by human actions.

Often the manifestation of violence seems incomprehensible. It scares me. By understanding where it comes from I can get rid of that fear. What interests me, therefore, as a filmmaker, is not the violence in itself but the circumstances that lead people to inflict harm on others.

Sexual violence is a sensitive subject and this is reflected in its representation in film. Many movies are told from the victim’s perspective. This is understandable because we feel sympathy for victims. But unfortunately we therefore lack the information needed to understand the origin of violence.

Most of the time, the emphasis is on the consequences of sexual violence. Even though this is important, these consequences are often easy to understand. They are more clear than the origin of, and the problem around, sexual violence.

My main intention is to make this clearer with the situation in Light as Feathers. It shows how a pattern of violence within a family is established and how this is maintained.

The story is set in a non-idyllic rural village and follows two children for several years during their puberty; a boy of 15 and a younger girl of 13. The boy, who is the main character of the film, abuses the girl by manipulating and forcing her into sexual contact. He’s a normal boy, with an empathic ability that he uses in order to get what he wants. Although his behaviour is trigged by the circumstances of his life – he is the victim of the ignorance of his direct environment -, I want him to be responsible for his acts. I think it’s only possible to break a pattern of violence if and when people take responsibility for it.

Sexual abuse is deeply tragic. What makes is so tragic is that around it, life goes on as if nothing has happened. And because of that, even the abusive situation becomes ‘normal’, ordinary. This discrepancy is alienating, strange, absurd and at times also comic. That’s why in the film also comic situations can be found. For me, humour is a way to embrace the vulnerability of people in all their imperfections and contradictions, many of which will be present in the film. For me humour isn’t interesting if it’s about situations in life that we love or feel good about, it becomes interesting when it’s about unbearable situations or people. Situations that we would rather not have to look at because we recognize something of ourselves in them. The humour is there in the details. It is less in the story itself than in the way the story is told.