The title Brave Miss World is a reference to the sci-fi classic Brave New World, and unfortunately it still feels like a brave new world even talking about rape. Look what Ke$ha is still going through. This is a tough subject but Linor Abargil gives herself and other victims the strength to talk about it. More than even giving herself and other women a voice, she’s helping give all of us language to discuss a sensitive topic.
Abargil was crowned Miss World in 1998, as the contestant from Italy. Six weeks earlier, she had been raped by Shlomo Nur, a man to whom a modeling agency sent her. Abargil went public in 2008 and set up a website for other survivors to share their stories. In this documentary, Abargil goes to meet some of those survivors in person while still fighting for justice for her own case.
One of the reasons it’s so difficult to discuss rape is that even when we’re trying to be sensitive to the victim, we can be part of the problem. We treat them differently, walk on eggshells or even dance around the subject. Brave Miss World articulates this part beautifully by addressing how Abargil’s friends and family react. It’s not just about the problem of judgmental victim blaming, although that’s part of it. Fortunately Abargil has a wonderful support system, but her mother addresses the guilt of how can we even talk to you about your crisis? If we’ve never suffered a sexual attack we may feel we have no place to even ask questions, but we’re still people who care about you. Abargil is trying to open this up too, because victims want to feel safe sharing and including their loved ones.
Victims’ stories are heartbreaking enough, but hearing about petty reasons their cases were dropped is heartbreaking. Of course we know about the backlog of rape kits in many major cities. That was just coming out when this film was being made, and there’s a more extensive exploration of it in the Blu-ray bonus features.
Abargil shows the power that just listening has. You see the victims being empowered while Abargil is being attentive. There are violent stories of survival, and she meets some recent victims for whom it is still fresh. And these are just the stories included in the film. Imagine all the other stories that are out there.
During the launch of her website, Nur applies for an early parole. He denies raping Abargil to this day and she fights to make him serve his complete 16 years sentence, which still seems too short. I must say, I’m impressed with the Tel Aviv legal institutions doing their diligence to find the evidence to corroborate Abargil’s story and petitioning parole board that he’s still a risk.
You can already see Brave Miss World on many platforms including Netflix, Amazon Instant, Google Play, Vudu, iTunes and Xbox. If you order the DVD or Blu-ray directly from BraveMissWorld.com (or wait for the July 5 Amazon release) it includes over an hour of additional scenes that further the poignant themes of the film.
There are powerful scenes with Abargil’s siblings to represent more of what a family goes through, and her mother expressing guilt over ignoring her other children’s needs. They don’t think she did but it’s understandable to worry. There is an additional case about a college campus mishandling a rape charge that ultimately drove the victim to suicide. Abargil catches a lawyer blaming future victims in what she meant as a cautionary statement, so Abargil reframes it appropriately. She even investigates the modeling agency that set her up with Nur in the first place. You can understand how it’s less central to the overall film but it creates great accountability.
The DVD and Blu-ray also include full survivor stories. These women appeared in the film, but their uncut testimonials are presented too. The segments are still fully produced and include contextual scenes of Abargil interacting with them, the aftermaths of the victims pursuing justice, and some even telling their families about it for the first time. There is so much valuable information all over this movie.