Honorable Mention – “Change The World” (Australia)

Title: Change The World
Runtime: 39 min
Country: Australia
Director: Angelena Bonet
Placement: Honorable Mention
Competition: March 31, 2019

Synopsis: Winner of 32 awards in America thus far, Angelena Bonet is a warrior in the fight to end violence against women. With a fierce commitment to helping victims heal, and take back their life, she brings to bear a multitude of talents, wisdom and personal experience. Violence and tragedy are not strangers to Angelena. In 2007, the love of her life and her fiancé, suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. In 2012, Angelena was the victim of a violent crime in her homeland. Only from the depths of her despair and darkest days has she truly found her voice and the courage to share about her experiences and to speak out about issues generally swept under the carpet by society. Angelena has multiple outlets for her commitment to supporting non-violence and health recovery. She sends a powerful message of self-love and healing and is proud to share her biopic documentary ‘Angelena: Change The World’, which she dedicates to her late fiancé and soul mate, Erick Deeby. She produced, directed and edited the film in its entirety, including the original music score which she co-wrote her late fiancé. From Australian supermodel to award winning documentary filmmaker, singer/songwriter and global women’s rights activist, Angelena cites the making of her film as having an intense healing effect on her and is proud to share her story.

Angelena has created two documentary feature films (‘Angelena: Change The World’ and the sequel ‘Angelena: Heart Of The Matter’) and her short film ‘Change The World’ which she wrote, produced, directed, edited and co-wrote and sang the soundtrack in its entirety.

FILMMAKER Q&A – Angelena Bonet

GS: What was the inspiration for your film?

AB: The inspiration for my film ‘Change The World’ has come from my life journey and borne from the tragedies I have suffered. After I lost my fiance suddenly in 2007 and was a victim of a violent sexual crime in 2012 my soul felt a deep desire to help other victims, ease their pain and stand up and be heard, not just for myself and the injustice I have endured but for all of us. I had promised my dear soulmate whilst he was in a coma that I would complete our music and that inspired me to live, while I was suicidal and has now become the soundtrack of all my documentaries. I envisage a global community where we all live in peace and harmony and free from violence. I believe that when we stand together, with united voices, we can change the world and my message is one of peace, love and unity.

GS: When did you conceive the idea for your film and how long did it take before it was realized?

AB: This documentary short film was created organically. I began collaborating with my partner in Sydney, Australia on a music album in late 2004 after I returned from modeling in Milan and was named ‘Australian Supermodel’ on national news. We worked on developing the style and recorded many tracks before my final instrumentals were laid. Erick was adamant I wait for the finished tracks before I write the lyrics so I could write from my heart and soul. We got engaged late August of 2007 and three days later he suffered a massive heart attack at our home and I performed CPR. Tragically, he was in a coma for week before his life support was turned off. During my deepest grief I wrote the lyrics and melody to the instrumental pieces of music he wrote for me and it help heal my heart. I had promised him, whilst at his hospital bedside that I would finish our special project and 13 years later I have kept that promise!

I had moved to Toronto, Canada in 2010 and went back to modeling and acting in television and film. I returned to Australia in May 2012 and six days later I was kidnapped and gang raped and almost murdered. I was lured there by someone I knew and trusted and needless to say I had severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a consequence of the heinous, violent crime. I had to retire from my modeling career, which I loved so much due to depression and being suicidal and assisted detectives with the investigation. As my recovery took its course, I saw life through new eyes and was determined to stand up and be heard. Not just for myself, but for every other woman and girl who has suffered sexual violence. This was before the #MeToo movement and no-one was speaking about this in public but I couldn’t be silenced. I wanted to create an online show so I could interview women and girls and let their voices be heard. I returned to Toronto in September 2014 and created my production company Crystal Heart Productions and that’s when my journalist show ‘Heart Of The Matter’ began. It was only myself and my vision and I interviewed friends that each had a powerful story to tell. I felt I had found my purpose and passion and there was no turning back. I returned to Sydney end of 2015 and a friend in the U.S. had told me about this incredible organization started by the Tony-Award winning Playwright and activist, Eve Ensler, called V Day One Billion Rising. I did a google search and I knew I had found a cause that resonated deeply with my core. I was a special guest at the annual global event on the 12th of February, 2016 in Sydney and I delivered a public speech, interviewed attendees and local community leaders and danced the flashmob to the powerful song ‘Break The Chain’. A really good girlfriend of mine from high school said to me the following week that I should make a short film about my life after the tragedies I have  been through and how I have triumphed over adversity. I was hesitant at first to the idea because it is so difficult talking about what happened to me and I’d never produced a film before but the more I thought about it over the next couple of weeks the more I thought it wasn’t such a bad idea after all…

GS: What was the most challenging aspect of working in a short film format?

AB: The biggest challenge of working in a short film format was the time constraint. I wanted it to be under 40 minutes and I came in at just under 39! My journey has been a whirlwind and to condense it to a short film format and ensure I still had all relevant documentation was the biggest challenge. I wanted the audience to understand what had happened and why I am doing what I am doing in the most succinct way possible.

GS: What was the most challenging aspect of your production?

AB: The most challenging aspect of my production was how emotional it was reliving the tragedies and the amount of work involved. I do absolutely everything, I don’t have a team and it has definitely been a labor of love! I have literally worked day and night for the past four years on my four films and soundtrack and I am very proud to have completed my projects. As this has been my journey, music and vision, I couldn’t have had anyone helping or editing my work because it has come from my heart and soul. This whole experience has been a roller coaster and brought up many tears by going back through my life and seeing footage from his funeral and photos and the terror of the crime. By feeling my emotions, rather than being afraid of them and by singing our songs and putting the pieces back together has been cathartic and had an intense healing effect on me. I have risen above and am so grateful for my wonderful life and the many incredible experiences I have been blessed with. 

GS: Do you have any advice for first-time filmmakers?

AB: The advice I would give first-time filmmakers is to choose a subject matter close to your heart. If you’re not passionate and not 100% committed to telling your particular story you won’t have the drive to persist throughout the production. Another piece of advice I would give first-time filmmakers is to do your homework and hone your skills. There are no short cuts in this industry and being able to multi-task is an advantage. When I began collaborating with Erick back in Christmas 2004, I obviously had no idea how my life would flow. If you do what you love then you will have the energy to persevere no matter what life throws your way. Believe in yourself, follow your heart and surround yourself with positive people.

Angelena’s Global Shorts statuettes for both her wins – CHANGE THE WORLD and BREAK THE CHAIN. Congratulations, Angelena!