I started out as a fashion photographer. Ten years ago I would not have dreamt of working as a documentary photographer or filmmaker as I was all consumed with the fashion world in NYC. It wasn’t until I left for Pakistan in 2009 and met with the acid burn survivors there that my interests shifted towards working with women and women’s rights issues. I felt that my work could finally make an impact and change perspectives rather than just selling clothes. The photography project I started there, “Without a Face”, is the foundation for my documentary film “Eternal Flame”, where I explore this issue further.
Every year thousands of women are subjected to brutal acid attacks around the world. It is most common in countries such as Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. There are also many cases in countries such as Uganda, Colombia and, more recently, parts of Europe. It is a heinous crime that leaves its victims suffering not only physical scars but mental ones too, often leading them into a life of isolation and stigmatization. The perpetrators – in most cases men – are usually a family member, an abusive husband, relatives seeking revenge or men who have been refused a marriage proposal.
Some progress is being made in Pakistan and India where laws have been enacted that regulate the sale of the types of acid used in these attacks. In addition courts are beginning to recognize the importance of ensuring that men are held accountable for these heinous crimes. But problems persist. In England acid violence has increased in the past year making acid a more common form of weaponry.
Eternal Flame is a feature length documentary about women from different cultures connecting through their shared experience of acid attacks. The film chronicles the multiple challenges these women have to endure – the most difficult one being the psychological battle of trying to be accepted in a world where physical beauty is heavily valued.
We began filming Patricia in Brussels in late 2012. We started following her everyday life – from visits to the doctor, to spending time with her family. We documented her performing everyday tasks and we contrasted this with her thoughts about her current situation. We discussed the stigma surrounding her appearance and we got to see the public’s reaction to it. Since coming out of the coma Patricia has had to endure over one hundred surgeries. The film not only shows us the procedures involved in her battle to improve her appearance but also her internal struggle to recover emotionally and spiritually.
This is a film not only about violence against women but about the perseverance and
courage of women. The story documents the full spectrum of what we, as humans, are
capable of. From the depths of our most vile failings, to the pinnacle of what we can
achieve in our darkest hour. Especially our darkest hour.
Acid violence or violence against women is something that occurs to women regardless
of race, religion, nationality or social class.
This is a significant time to make a film about violence against women. Never before
have so many women and women’s rights organizations been mobilized to end the
epidemic of violence against them throughout the world. 2015 marks the twentieth
anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – a world conference that
dealt with the issues of equality, development and evaluation of the status of women.
My intent is to portray how these women address these problems and how they
challenge the social attitudes that lead to violence against women in the first place. I
want to open people’s eyes to recognize that there is something very wrong in many
cultures that seems to be expressing itself in violence towards women. Perhaps
something fundamental can be understood by showing women in completely different
We are currently in the middle of a crowdfunding campaign, so if you can please donate
and share this project on social media.
Link to crowdfunding campaign: http://igg.me/at/Eternal-Flame-Doc
Thank you for your support!