In Review: Dreamcatcher (2015)

by Daniel Goodwin on 06/03/2015


Renowned director Kim Longinotto has been making documentaries for nearly four decades now. From her debut Pride Of Place in 1976 to the more recent Love Is All (2014) released only last December, Longinotto’s latest follows Brenda Myers-Powell and her Dreamcatcher Foundation: an organisation set up to help and educate on the dangers of human trafficking.

Myers-Powell co-founded the organisation after conquering her drug addiction and waking up in hospital following a violent attack. In Dreamcatcher (2015) Kim Longinotto captures Brenda’s encounters with various women working as prostitutes on the streets of Chicago, some of whom were pregnant and addicted to drugs while raising children.

The documentary highlights the scale of the people trafficking problem by engaging with many female survivors who are physically abused by their clients and those they work for. Yet while acting as a harrowing expose the film struggles to effectively convey the foundation’s workings, not providing greater insight into the life of Myers-Powell or the catalytic event that changed her life.

In the 97 minute running time, Dreamcatcher (2015) examines many struggling individuals but doesn’t provide them separately with as much screen time as they all individually deserve, which would be more manageable in a different format. That is not to say it is an undeserving film, far from it. Dreamcatcher is a deeply moving and valid piece of verite film-making but places more emphasis on the general repercussions of the torment than it does on the role of the foundation. And in its attempt to cover the stories of too many people, as powerful as they may be, it often feels unfocused.

Sequences featuring Myers-Powell distributing condoms to women working on the streets at night, running help groups, visiting people at their homes and in the foundation’s head office provide brief glances into the organisation but more details surrounding its history, inception and construction would have provided greater context. However, there are some interesting insights into the life of a former pimp and foundation aide “Fancy” whose presence in the help group is somewhat prickly and helps to highlight the complexity¬†of life post-exploitation.

While Dreamcatcher is powerful as a standalone piece, it may have worked better as a series; providing a greater platform for exploring the finer points of the organisation’s role and those who have survived such adversity. As a feature it is stark, deeply moving yet oddly ephemeral.

Daniel has awarded Dreamcatcher (2015) three Torches of Truth

3 torches cropped

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