DBFF: Alma shows viewers guilt that emanates from domestic violence

Published on: Tue, Jan 26, 2016

By Jen Miller

In the end, we would remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. – Martin Luther King Jr.

What if…

A question we have all asked ourselves at some point in our lives. What if I hadn’t moved away from Dallas? What if I’d not been texting behind the wheel? What if I had married my college boyfriend?

What if…a pointless question. A question that can never be answered.

Alma is a beautiful, young woman with an infectious smile. She’s a wife and a mother to a little girl. Everyone in her village loves her. But everything is about to change in Alma’s life. A shadow has come over her husband and he’s suddenly not the man she married. He’s angry. Very angry. And Alma, like many women, has become the target of his anger.

As his once love-filled eyes glaze over with jealousy and rage, Alma’s life begins to spin out of control. Her neighbors and friends begin to take notice. She shakes off the concern and assures them everything is fine. Sounds kind of familiar, right?

A still from Alma, awarded Best Short Film at the 2015 African International Film Festival.

This is the point in the film where I start thinking to myself, would I step in here? When I know that there is a woman and a child in harm’s way, I’m screaming to myself, “Yes! Of course I should….but would I?” The majority of us would maybe turn our heads. It’s not our business. It’s their home. If she needs help, she’ll ask. Or we justify it and tell ourselves we are being dramatic.

The other night, my boyfriend David and I were walking the dogs and we passed a townhome in our complex and overheard a couple arguing loudly. David was telling me that the police have been called often for this couple because their fights get so loud. We just kept walking and kind of laughed it off, both of us saying we are so glad our relationship is not volatile like that. As I was watching “Alma”, that night was brought back into my mind. We are strangers to that couple. But should we have called someone? What if that was the night it got physical?

Personally, I have never been in a relationship where a man has struck me, thank God. And I don’t have any close friends that have been in that type of relationship either. But I like to think that I am the kind of person who would get all up in their business and get my friend out. Yeah, I’d probably be that pushy girl friend who shows up to move you in with me without any notice. I tend to be overly protective of those I love. Many of my friends have witnessed me very openly sticking up for them in public. They are funny stories now, but people know I will not leave them hanging when they’re in trouble…even when that “trouble” is something as petty as a nasty Facebook comment. “Nope! Not my girl!”

Of course, I say all this. But at the end of the day, people are going to do what they want to do, regardless of my personal feelings or my advice. So, what is someone to do? Let them just…figure it out on their own? Even if the consequence is death?

“Alma” was difficult to watch. But it’s important to watch. Of course, my heart broke for Alma, but also for those around her. In the opening line of the film, the narrator takes full blame for Alma’s abuse and the demise of her family. Is it really his fault? She told her friends not to worry, to let it go. But he heard. He knew what was happening to Alma. My heart breaks for him too.

Is he just as guilty as Alma’s abuser? Does knowing and doing nothing make us just as guilty? What if…

 

***If you or someone you know is a victim of domestic violence, please reach out for help now. You can reach the National Domestic Violence Hotline at thehotline.org or call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Alma runs 22 minutes and will be shown on Sunday as part of Film Block 2 at 5:25 p.m. To see the full Denton Black Film Festival schedule and to purchase tickets, click here.

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