Expired June 19, 2022 3:59 AM
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24 year old Sophie Sandberg has started a worldwide movement that speaks out against street harassment. However, even with her activism, she still falls victim to it. The worst part? She isn't even surprised.

Director Biography - Camille Dianand

Camille Dianand is a documentary filmmaker that has spent six years learning, teaching, and working with film. Through DCTV, she has been commissioned to edit several documentary pieces for HBO, a United Nations Conference, and more.

Camille has graduated from The City College of New York in 2021 with a Film BFA degree, and will pursue filmmaking as a career.

Director Statement

The first time I decided to respond to a catcaller, I was followed home. I was only fourteen. Three young men were in a car at a red light, shouting explicit things to me about what they wanted to do to my body. I decided to flip them off, which upset them enough to follow me home. I couldn’t find my keys, so I rang the doorbell nonstop until my dad answered. As soon as they saw him, they fled. For months after, I found myself searching the streets for their car whenever I was by myself. I was scared. I was powerless. And I hated it.

Catcalling has become so normalized in today’s world that instead of being treated as a severe issue, it’s belittled to something that ‘just happens.’ It’s become this expected thing that harms more than three out of four women globally. We’re told not to respond and not to engage with harassers because of what more they could do to us. Breaking news all over the world shows that women are assaulted and killed for responding to their catcallers, but many get killed for ignoring their harassers too. Ruth George is just one of many victims who proved that we could get hurt no matter what we do or don’t do.

Growing up, I was given the typical advice to cover up, stay in groups, avoid being out after dark, and so on. Unfortunately, only going out in broad daylight and wearing baggy sweaters in the summer did not stop the harassment. For almost a decade it seemed like there was no way to feel in control of what happened to me. Whenever a man looked me up and down or commented on my body, I felt that same scared, sinking feeling as I did when I was fourteen. I still do.

I often speak with friends about these frustrations because they, unfortunately, share the same experiences and feelings. During one of these conversations, I was sent an Instagram page that is centered around bringing awareness to street harassment. It was explained to me that people send in their harassment stories, which then get told through street art and posted on the page. The people running the Instagram page, CatcallsOfNYC, use chalk to write down catcalls on the street where they happened, to raise awareness of the issue and empower victims.

I was in absolute awe when I scrolled through this page for the first time. Reading the awful, explicit, and scary things that happened to women every single day, reading the comments and reactions that others had to these experiences, it all moved me. Someone had found a safe way to combat street harassment and give us our voices back. I had to figure out who.

Sophie Sandberg, only a couple of years older than me, had created this page on her own. Her work caught the attention of people all around the world, who then started similar Instagram pages in their cities, resulting in a massive global movement. I immediately reached out to thank her for what she’s done and continues to do for women everywhere. I told her that I’d love to offer another platform for her to share her activism, and to my surprise, she responded.

I filmed her chalking up and down the streets of New York City and witnessed firsthand what it was like to be in her shoes. I watched people interact positively with her and praise her work, but I also saw people criticize her, wash off her art and even catcall her. I was shocked. Although Sophie has found a way to speak out against street harassment, she still gets silenced. In addition to this, victims everywhere get silenced.

After filming one day, Sophie and I were speaking about how it feels to be powerless. She opened up to me about how helpless she feels about an online harassment situation that she’s been dealing with for years. A man has been harassing and threatening her through every form of social media available to him because he came across and disagrees with her activism. Hearing how scared she was just speaking about it made me angry. No matter the form of harassment, whether it’s behind a screen or face to face, the harassers get away with it. The only ones that suffer are the people on the receiving end. It’s disgusting.

I had initially envisioned my piece to be about recognizing this young woman that’s provided an outlet and a community for individuals all over the world. I wanted it to celebrate her and her ability to give power back to those it had been taken from, but after learning the severity of what Sophie has to endure, I realized that’s unfortunately not accurate. Despite her bravery and strength, she still suffers and struggles to have a sense of power. In this respect, we all do.

Though there is much to be celebrated, there is still so much more that needs to be done. There needs to be real, effective change and until that happens, we will never truly have power over what happens to us. Even with Sophie’s activism, her wide-ranging team, and her worldwide movement, there is no happy ending. Not yet.

  • Year
  • Runtime
  • Language
  • Country
    United States
  • Director
    Camille Dianand
  • Cast
    Sophie Sandberg