INTERVIEW: A Chat With the Filmmakers Behind ‘I Beat Up My Rapist’
Director Katrina Saville with Producer Gurjeet Kaur Bassi collaborated on I Beat Up My Rapist, a short film based on a true story from xoJane (titled “My Friends and I Beat Up My Rapist, And I Will Never Apologize for Getting Revenge”). The two women chat about the motivation behind the project and what moved them.
Tell us about I Beat Up My Rapist and what was the inspiration behind the story. What drew you to this particular narrative and why?
Katrina: I read the memoir essay online when it went viral 3 years ago. Leif’s (the author) writing is so vivid and compelling, I immediately began imagining it on the screen. It’s almost like I could see certain scenes pop off the page right away. I sent the essay to Gurjeet (my good friend, and producing partner) and asked her what she thought. She replied pretty quickly, saying– we have to make this. I contacted Leif personally, and asked her if we could option her essay to adapt it into a short film. Thankfully, she was open to working with us, and trusted us to tell her story.
Gurjeet: We started working on this in 2016, a few months after the Brock Turner case (a criminal case filed in a Californian Superior Court which convicted Brock Turner of three counts of felony sexual assault) was all over the news. We followed that case closely because we knew how hard it was/is for our culture to accept that a good person/student/son/friend/guy/swimmer was capable of rape. I Beat Up My Rapist was exactly this as well. More so, I wanted to tell this story because I appreciated the alternative ending it had. I liked that Leif decided to seek justice, in her own way. We both wanted to show that.
Was it difficult to tell a real story but also needing to acknowledge a very difficult and sensitive topic for a lot of people? How did you feel personally after reading the original article from xoJane?
Katrina: I couldn’t get the article out of my head after I initially read it. It really resonated with me. Which is was drove me to make it. It was of course more sensitive and nerve-racking taking on someone else’s traumatic true story. There was the added pressure of wanting to do right by Leif. We made sure to involve her in the development process and talked her through my vision. Thankfully, when she watched the final film, she was very impressed and thanked us for letting her empathize with herself, which she had never been fully capable of doing, since she disassociated herself from her trauma.
What was the toughest moments when you were developing and filming this project?
Gurjeet: Probably financing it. We applied for a few grants that we never ended up getting, so things weren’t looking promising, but through some self-funding, lots of favors, donations, and lucking out with a cheap location, we managed to shoot it over one weekend.
Historically, rape has been fetishized in a lot movies. How do you feel about this and why do you think it’s imperative to finally tell the female side of the story without having it filtered through a male gaze?
Katrina: I think it’s important for anyone who’s been sexually assaulted to see their experiences reflected in an honest way– not sexualized in anyway, no gratuitous lingering shots, no excessive violence, or over dramatization etc… And to have the sexual assault BE the story, and not just some character trope within the story. It’s important to represent survivors of sexual assault, and not victims. And I feel like it’s equally important for those who have not had to fear for the safety of their bodies, to watch these very real stories and absorb how they play out, and the repercussions of such acts of violence– instead of taking in these historically fetishized scenes, as you mentioned, which do not do survivors of sexual assault justice.
How do you hope people would feel after watching this film? What do you hope they’ll take away from it?
Katrina: I hope that anyone who has ever felt unable to speak up after they’ve been violated in anyway, watches this short film and feels heard, and likewise, I hope that anyone who has never been violated, watches this film and is able to empathize. I definitely made this film in honor of survivors of sexual assault, like Leif, who wrote the memoir that it was based on, but once the film was finished, I realized that the film was made for them– the ones who have walked around their entire lives without fearing for the safety of their bodies. I made this for them, so they can empathize with the people who move through life constantly having to consider if their bodies– and therefore, their minds and their souls– will be safe. I hope to be able to make people feel things, rather than just think about this idea.
Gurjeet: I hope that after audiences watch this they will not only feel empathy for survivors but feel empowered to share their own stories of survival as well.
Do you feel it’s important to tell these stories and for people to find ways to express and talk about their traumatic experiences in a safe and creative spaces?
Katrina and Gurjeet: One hundred percent.
Katrina: I believe that making art in general, and probably more so about your traumatic experiences, is as essential as breathing.
Where can people see this film if they wanted to in the future?
Gurjeet: It will be playing in Houston at the Worldfest International Film Festival on April 7th at 3pm. We’re hoping for a few other film festival screenings as well before we eventually release it online later in the year. You can stay updated via our website: www.ibumr.com
Just to lighten the mood a little, our final question always pertains to super powers! If you could have a super power which would it be and what will you use it for?
Katrina: Extreme Speed Reader. So I could absorb knowledge at an accelerated rate.
Gurjeet: Slowing and speeding up time when I choose.