Kim Longinotto's documentary shines a light on a truly wonderful woman
Forget all those lycra-clad crime-fighters who constantly jostle for position at the box office, Dreamcatcher is a documentary about a bona fide superhero. By day, Brenda Myers-Powell works with prostitutes in prison and disadvantaged young girls in school; by night, she helps those at-risk women walking the shadowy streets on the outskirts of Chicago. Brenda may not wear a cape – although she does boast a series of fabulous wigs – but she is most certainly saving lives.
Brenda's achievements are numerous and astonishing. A drug addict and prostitute for 25 years, she now uses her horrifying experience to help others get out of the game. Just as her relentless compassion brings comfort and hope to the girls she takes under her wing, it draws us into her story; something that award-winning British documentarian Kim Longinotto appreciates and, through straightforward observation, celebrates without sycophancy or lionising.
The issues at play here are similarly highlighted without sermonising or politicising, giving these women – and, surprisingly, Brenda's reformed former pimp – the space to tell their harrowing tales of abuse, neglect and desperation in their own, sadly matter-of-fact, words. Indeed, as with her previous films, Longinotto is at pains to keep herself out of the picture, although her well-considered use of the deeply misogynistic Snoop Dogg rap 'Brake Fluid' at a key moment effectively underlines her point.
Longinotto's long-term editor Oliver Huddleston takes care to ensure that the film doesn't shy away from the everyday brutality suffered by these women, or linger mawkishly over their suffering. Brenda's unending positivity is allowed to shine through even the darkest moments, and her focus is firmly on the road ahead. And if Dreamcatcher can alert the wide audience it deserves to her humbling, inspirational work, more women may well benefit from her salvation. For that reason alone, it's an essential watch.
Selected release from Fri 6 Mar.