The director of C-Line Films’ Family Affair, Chico Colvard attempts to tell the story of family incest from the perspective of one who is neither victim nor abuser.
Of course, one can’t explore the film nor talk with Colvard too long without realizing that these easy, discrete categories don’t always neatly demarcate the experiences of those who know victims or perpetrators of sexual abuse.
Colvard said he hoped his film gave victims of and witnesses to abuse “permission to talk about family crises,” noting that there is often intentional or unintentional complicity within families whose members can misunderstand or misinterpret the ways in which victims’ struggles interfere with idealized or historic family dynamics.
A major topic of our discussion was forgiveness. Is it possible? Necessary? Is forgiveness possible without repentance? Does it undercut attempts to hold victimizers accountable for their actions?
Colvard noted that any meaningful claims about forgiveness required a careful examination of the ways in which we as a culture define (often lazily) what me mean by such a word.
While acknowledging that in some cases unilateral forgiveness–the act of unconditionally forgiving those who are unrepentant or who eschew taking responsibility–may be possible, or even desired, he also spoke compassionately of the way that requiring or expecting unilateral forgiveness may further victimize or traumative those who are unable or unwilling to unconditionally forgive. Because society often sends the message–overt or implied–that whether or not you are a “good person” is dependent on whether you can or will forgive, victims of serious or continued abuse may feel isolated, even when their experiences are common.
In many ways, Colvard said, the process of making the film was about learning to “embrace all the imperfections,” whether they be the technical imperfections of having to use equipment to get at or into intimate family gatherings, or the moral imperfections one feels heavily for not knowing, not speaking, or not responding perfectly to the the incredibly difficult moral, personal, and spiritual challenges life sometimes confronts us with.
A Family Affair premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and was recently acquired by Oprah Winfrey’s cable channel OWN.