Hot Docs 2020 Review: All That I Am

Imagine being six years old and the stepfather who is supposed to provide for you and protect you, repeatedly violates you and steals your innocence. Imagine trying to tell adults who you trust that these terrible and violent things are happening, but they dismiss you. Imagine once you do finally find someone who trusts you that you are forced to leave your mother and siblings for five years and when you are able to return, you are not supposed to talk about what happened. Imagine that at the end of those five years, you also know that this monster now gets to walk free and go about his life. How would you feel? How would you be able to live your life? How would you find ways to survive? Would you ever be able to not just survive, but thrive?

These are the experiences of an 18-year-old Emile Andrea in the new documentary All That I Am, directed by Tone Grøttjord-Glenne. This Norwegian doc follows Emile as she returns home and tries to find ways to live a normal life after years of sexual abuse.

While Emile uses her writing to begin to heal herself and deal with her trauma, she also has to deal with a system that wants her to heal faster than she is ready to and a mother that doesn’t want to fully acknowledge her pain. This documentary examines the idea that while social services aim to help, lack of focus on trauma-informed practice can do more harm than good for the survivors of horrific abuse. It also paints a picture of the loneliness and isolation that trauma survivors encounter when they cannot share their pain. But this documentary is also a story of Emile’s courage and she finds a way to share her story with her half-siblings whose father is the cause of her pain.

This film is beautifully shot and the pacing allows for the viewer to really get a sense of how time passes for Emile. We see inside both her victories and her challenges as Grøttjord-Glenne follows Emile through her daily life with no direct interrogation of her subject, instead opting for a passive and intimate look inside each moment.

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Darcy Staniforth

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