I was recently asked to review the story of filmmaker/actress Alison Stover’s THE FOUR WALLS OF CHARLOTTE MORELAND, a semi-autobiographical story of domestic and emotional abuse committed by her ex-boyfriend bundled up into a powerful, film festival award-winning short, that is currently vying for #FYC Oscar attention in the Live Action Shorts category. This came my way at an auspicious time, when a friend of mine found herself in a situation very similar to that of Stover. I was immediately interested.
The film is based on her own personal experiences. In the aftermath of an abusive relationship, Charlotte (Alison Stover) doesn’t know her own mind. She is redefined by the lies of her abuser. Isolation, panic and depression overwhelm her. However, there’s hope on this journey to recover her soul as she discovers her strength and resilience and is born again.
Ali felt it was essential to share her personal #metoo story, what she endured and that it follows her own path of healing. While Ali overcame the debilitating, paralyzing effects of abuse, it took her many years. Many Hollywood stories portray healing from this type of trauma in relation to the abuser, but few tackle these themes with the intensity, vigor, and visceral impact of Ali’s film.
Wonderful things have happened to Ali making this movie: she learned and grown and can now stand in a place of love and not fear and use her experience and this film to hopefully help others.
Alison Stover offered to answer some questions about her film as follows:
In THE FOUR WALLS OF CHARLOTTE MORELAND, a film about domestic abuse, there are several powerful women. One is the police officer. Was her real-life experience in anyway like the strangling experience she described in the film?
Yes, the actor who plays Detective Demps and I have been friends for many years. Rissa and I talked about doing a film together and she expressed interest in coming on board when I announced the film. She had told me that she had this experience in her personal life and detailed what had happened to her when she was a teenager. It is in fact a true story. The monologue in the film happened to her exactly as she described it. She is incredibly strong.
When I left the abusive relationship and made a conscious effort to heal, I found that abuse is surprisingly common. There are so many people who have gone through something like this. Many people healed but unfortunately, there were some who didn’t. There were some people who were skin and bones, barely eating, and it was obvious they would never be the same. For some people, it’s not just a phase but unfortunately, their lives are completely derailed. It’s not a matter of strength or willpower, or desire to heal. For some people the damage is so extensive that they just can’t recover.
I found the film to be compelling and instructive. Have you considered using this as a teaching tool for counselors or in some other way?
That is exactly why I made this film! I was hoping it would help survivors and friends and family of survivors but also I was hoping it would be a teaching tool for counselors, and for therapists. When I began my healing journey, I found there was such little knowledge about what really happens in these relationships. There was even less knowledge about how to help someone. Much of the care involves around the victim/survivor in that there are tons of questions as to why you were involved with someone who was abusive. The word normal comes up a lot. Meaning that victims are not normal. There is so much blame put on the person who was strong enough to leave. Even with counselors there is a stigma. I was hoping to educate people, so that there would be more compassion for people who are healing. Sometimes the reasons for getting involved with someone who is abusive is that you were just naïve and didn’t know any better. Obviously, there’s no abuse in the beginning.
In addition to distributing the film, I am hoping to screen at schools and universities so that there is more awareness about this subject. I am planning on making a tool kit that people can use if they are seeking help as well.
What was it that you experienced that made you aware you needed help? How did you find the help you needed?
The strange thing about abuse is that it’s insidious. It is a very slow and almost unnoticeable process, so by the time things have escalated and become truly dangerous you are not even aware of the fact that you are being abused. For someone who has never been through this, I know that might sound inconceivable. How can you be in these dangerous situations and not know they are dangerous and also not know that this isn’t normal? The gaslighting is just that extensive.
When you are abused, you believe it is your fault. You are used to being afraid and your new norm is the sick world you are living in. You feel powerless to change it.
For me, there were many interventions by friends and family and that was what saved me. I had numerous friends and family members telling me over and over again for months that I was in a dangerous situation and I needed to leave. There was so much fear. He threatened hurt me and certain family members and indirectly certain friends if I left him. My late sister, Cheryl was sending me articles daily about abuse trying to get me to see my own situation. I could relate to all of the women in all of the articles, although there was a part of me that still wasn’t sure I was being abused. But I was blatantly being abused. I eventually overcame the fear, broke up with him in a public place, and left my apartment for good. I didn’t want him to know where I was living. I would go back to grab a few things and then leave immediately. I didn’t want him to know my whereabouts. I have a group of really amazing friends, and one of my friends took me in. I think I was able to heal because I have such a wonderful group of girlfriends and such a supportive family.
Is there anything specific about the creation of the film you would like to share with the Splash Magazines Worldwide readers?
I think something I would like people to know is that it is helpful to share your story. For you, but also for other people. Whatever your medium is whether it’s through writing or painting or music or film or simply talking please share your story with people. There might be judgment but the catharsis of bringing something that has been hiding in the dark out into the light is worth it.
Photos: Courtesy of THE FOUR WALLS OF CHARLOTTE MORELAND
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