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Afterwards: Production Diary

Afterwards: Production Diary

Afterwards: Production Diary

Afterwards represents two years of my life. Two years in the shadow of violence. Two years of struggling with something I’m desperately trying to grasp, but will never understand: violence against women. This film has left an indelible mark on me. It has not only changed my perspective, but also my relationship with the world around me. During the process of making it, I committed my thoughts, my fears, and my worries to a notebook that traces my evolution over the course of the project. The entries below are a compilation of excerpts from this journal of the film’s creation.

February 15, 2022, 1:42 PM
Research: End of the preliminary study phase

It’s already been three months since I started my in-depth research on the subject, diving into reading and watching a wide range of content. I’ve been flooded with information, statistics, and numbers, and I feel assaulted and deeply outraged by the violence being perpetrated. Some days, I can’t face it. I’m frozen, paralyzed, exhausted, enraged. I have to keep it together, to not be swallowed alive by this work. How will I tackle this subject? How can I tell these stories?

May 10, 2022, 11:47 PM
Research: First time meeting the group at Maison La Traverse

Inside the house, I felt as though I were enclosed in a bubble, cut off from the world, both protected and unfindable. At the end of the evening, when it was time to leave and return to my “normal life,” it felt strange. These women are here, hidden, and nobody knows it. They had to flee their homes to take refuge here, and live with strangers. The collective ignorance about the situation felt brutal. I was overwhelmed with guilt, as if I was abandoning the women, leaving them behind to return “home.”

Maison La Traverse (Photo : Romane Garant Chartrand)

September 29, 2022, 11:12 PM
Pre-production: Meeting the film’s protagonists

Tonight, I met the women who will be the protagonists. All the way home, I felt like I had a knot in my stomach and a sharp pain tugging at my throat. The tears wouldn’t stop rolling down my cheeks. They will be “the film.” Arriving back at my apartment, I learn there’s been another femicide, the 11th in Quebec during 2022. Of course, the women I was with just a few hours earlier have all known the fear of dying, but today they were with me. Alive. The shock and horror tear me up inside.

Photo : Cloé Lafortune

October 28, 2022, 11:34 PM
Production: First day of recording sound

Today marked the first day of recording — sound only, because we want to proceed slowly and gradually. I’ve spent months listening to them, alone, immersed in their stories. But today, a sound recordist is with us, sitting in on the session. My producer is on the other side of the door — hidden, but listening. I can still see the mic, aimed at them, moving around above their heads. I savoured that image. The simple act of recording them moved me tremendously. They each looked at the boom mic in turn, and introduced themselves, cautiously. I savoured this image. The simple act of recording them made me deeply emotional. At that moment, I knew we were starting off on an adventure together. Finally, their voices would be heard.

Photo : Cloé Lafortune

November 6, 2022, 8:07 PM
Production: Eve of the first day of shooting

Today, the evening before we start filming, my feelings and my thoughts are roiled by emotion. Over the last few months, I’ve often felt like I’m all alone, facing this huge and horrifying issue. I even worry about not being able to complete the project — not being up for handling the scope and gravity of the subject. Feeling a responsibility to honestly depict the power coming out of that group, and to do it justice, makes me want to dive in, but also sometimes has me feeling frozen. These survivors, who are so strong and resilient, leave me shaken every day. Despite my fears and doubts, I try to stay true to my values, telling myself that the best ideas are the ones that scare us. So, I am diving in — terrified, but also strong, ready to support these women’s voices.

Photo : Cloé Lafortune

December 7, 2022, 7:48 PM
Production: Eve of the last day of filming

Tomorrow is our last day of filming, and a powerful feeling of nostalgia has grabbed hold of me. I try to comfort myself by saying I will see them all again, but I know full well that’s not true. For months, I’ve been gathering the stories of these survivors, and for the last seven weeks we have recorded them and filmed them going about their daily lives. Today, I am leaving and carrying their stories with me, and will do my best to tease them out in the editing room. I am also carrying their confidences, and the legacy of their memories, their suffering, and their distress, so that I can show the world the true nature of violence. Its ugliness. Its brutality. The way it eats away at us from the inside and destroys us. So that it can finally end.

Photo : Cloé Lafortune

December 8 2022, 11:55 PM
Production: End of the last day of of filming

The moment the final “cut” is said, Dominique, who facilitates the group meetings, starts to speak, to recognize us. She acknowledges the enormous amount of work it took to gain the confidence of everyone at the shelter: employees and residents alike. She talks about the challenge of integrating into an unfamiliar and secret environment like this one, then introducing a microphone, a camera, and a film crew. Later, she confides to me the doubts and worries she had about the project. My response was simple: “Bringing a camera into a shelter is a huge challenge, but deep down I never had my doubts. I knew I would be able to manage, because I always believed in the project.”

From left to right, Laurie Pominville (associate producer), Romane Garant Chartrand (director), Isabelle Stachtchenko (director of photography), Lynne Trépanier (sound recordist), and Cloé Lafortune (camera assistant).

Today, as I leave this place, I know all its nooks and corners, and I feel like I’ve been absorbed into its walls, and at the same time, as though I’ve absorbed them. Will I ever come back to this house? When will I have the opportunity to see these women again? How will they change and develop? Just as we are leaving, Mariane, one of the residents, calls out, “You’ll come back to see us, right? Without the camera?” These women, these fighters, will stay with me forever.

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